For most parents, the urgency of writing a will is not only to ensure that material possessions are distributed according to their wishes. Obviously, we want our children and loved ones to receive our assets. However, most parents are compelled to write a will to guarantee their children are cared for by someone who is committed to giving the children the loving care they deserve.
The alternative is leaving things to chance regarding your children’s future. Not having a will can have a devastating impact on children trying to cope with the loss of their parents. A judge unfamiliar with you, your children or what is important in your lives will make the decision on who should care for your children if you and their other parent dies unexpectedly.
What Happens if Guardians are Not Named?
If your small children essentially become orphans because no guardian was named in a will, the judge usually appoints a guardian based on the following guidelines. The final decision in each scenario is based on the children’s best interest:
- If one or more grandparents are still alive, the judge will appoint the person deemed most suitable to care for your children.
- If one or more grandparents are not alive, the nearest relative is appointed guardian. This may also occur if the grandparents are alive but are either unwilling or unable to become guardians. In some cases, children might have two or more relatives who share similar relationships with the children. The judge will use his discretion in appointing the person or persons best suited to become the guardian.
- The judge decides who is qualified to care for your children if they are left without relatives to care for them or relatives who are unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility. This person could be unrelated to you and your children.
A judge follows these statutory guidelines under the assumption that relatives are the first choice of the deceased parents. While this is often the case, problems may arise for children and their relatives from the judge’s decision. Disagreements regarding who is best able to care for the children may exist between extended family members. This could result in a legal battle over who should have the rights of guardianship.
What Happens if Distribution of Material Assets are Not Spelled Out?
Further complicating the issue is disputes regarding the distribution of your material assets. Your children may also be deprived without a will that explicitly details how your personal property is distributed.
Each state has a legal process to determine what will happen to your property. Generally, the surviving spouse inherits everything unless he or she dies at the same time. When this happens, the judge will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of the assets you owned at the time of your death.
Children are your most valuable assets and you should do what is necessary to secure their future. While you expect to be with your children and watch them blossom into young adults, life is unpredictable. One tragedy can turn your children’s world upside down. Having a will that details what should occur after your death can ensure their lives remain as stable as possible.