Author of the book Estate Planning Smarts, Deborah L. Jacobs, was interviewed by Christine Benz of Morningstar Inc. In the interview, Ms. Jacobs spoke about why new parents need a will to protect their children:
The most important thing — and it’s something that I recommend people do almost immediately after becoming parents — is to be sure that you have a will. This is not only to transfer assets, but to appoint a guardian for your child if for some reason the child is orphaned. People don’t realize that a will is the only document they can use to do this, and if they don’t, then the whole matter has to go to court.
Ms. Jacobs also emphasizes that estate planning is not just for the wealthy; regardless of your financial means, a will helps to ensure that your children are taken care of in the event of your death.
Although wills give us a lot of control over what happens to our property after we die, there are some limitations to this power. The majority of states recognize the right of a surviving spouse to claim a share in the deceased partner’s estate regardless of any statements made in a will. Your ability to disinherit a spouse depends on your state and its individual laws.
Though no one likes to think about ones own mortality, it is important for same-sex couples to do some advance planning in the event of their death or incapacitation. Those couples living in states that no not permit marriage — or do not offer civil unions or domestic partnerships that include inheritance rights — especially need a will. Keep in mind that when there is no legal recognition of same-sex unions, gays and lesbians are often left with nothing upon the death of their partner. To avoid losing your home, your personal belongs, and, in some cases, your children, ensure that both you and your partner begin the estate planning process as soon as possible.