What is a will? Do you have one -- and do you really need one? An attorney fills you in here.
Kinds of parental rights
If your children are under 18, a guardian will be appointed to care for and assume legal responsibility for them. In most states, a court hearing is held and a guardian is appointed. If more than one person wants to be appointed, the court will decide, applying state law to determine who has priority. For example, if a couple dies in an auto accident, the grandparents or siblings from both the mother's and father's side may each want to be appointed guardian of the children. An ugly court battle may happen at the worst possible time when everybody needs to pull together for the children.
Nominating a guardian in your will, shows who you feel will best care for your children. Both the court and family members see who you want to be appointed guardian. A court hearing must still be held, but your wishes are known to all.
Setting up a trust can help control when and how much of your estate is received by your children. For example, you can specify that your child will receive 1/3 of the estate when he/she is 18, 1/3 when he/she is 21, and the remainder at 25. This is commonly done when the parents do not feel that the child will be mature enough at 18 to receive the entire estate.