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Making a Will

You have a new life growing inside of you, and the last thing on your mind is your last will and testament. But that new life is just the reason you need to plan. If you have any property or money at all that you would like to save from the IRS and preserve for your child, and if you want the right to decide who will be appointed your child's personal guardian if you should die prematurely, you need to write a will.

If you have significant assets, long-term care responsibilities, or reason to fear that someone may contest your will, or if you want to set up a living trust, a bypass trust, or a Durable Power of Attorney, you probably need an attorney to produce your will. If, on the other hand, your will needs only to appoint a guardian for your children, appoint an executor to oversee the distribution of your assets, and lay out the plan for the distribution of your assets, you should be able to prepare your will yourself, using legal software, a statutory fill in the blanks will, or a stationary store will, which gives you a little more flexibility than the statutory will does.

But actually working your way through the paperwork is only a small part of the will preparation process. There are four stages to writing a will: planning, information gathering, form filling, and storing.

First of all, you need to plan, to evaluate your priorities and your options to figure out what will serve your child best, be most helpful to your loved ones, and do the best job of protecting your assets. You need to be tax-wise, and you need to choose an executor you trust. Most importantly, you need to select and sit down with the one person worthy of being a personal guardian for your child. Make sure to choose just one personal guardian for your child, as two or more may at some point go separate ways, leaving your child in the middle. The guardian you choose should be someone both you and your child are comfortable with and have absolute confidence in. They should share your basic moral sense and your philosophy of parenting. It is also important that the guardian you choose be able to take on parenting responsibilities: they must be physically able to handle the workload, and their schedule must be able to accommodate a child.

But in thinking about the person with whom you are willing to share the sacred duty of raising your child, you also need to think about money. Does the guardian you have in mind have the financial resources needed to raise a child? How much support can you provide them? It is possible to select two guardians, one property guardian to act as a financial manager and one personal guardian to act as a surrogate parent. If you want to leave money to your child, you will need to appoint a custodian to oversee it until your child turns 21 (in most states, anyway). Think through these issues and discuss them with your potential guardian and an alternate guardian, which you should also select in case anything should happen to your guardian.

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