Young parents often tell me that they don’t need a will because they don’t own very much. Even if that’s true, there is one very important reason to make a will: the possibility that you and your spouse might die before your children reach adulthood. Until a guardianship is put in place, your relatives or friends who would otherwise be capable of raising your children would have no authority to do so. Without a guardianship, they would have no authority to make medical decisions, educational decisions, or financial decisions for the child.
Ark. Code Ann. § 28-65-204 states that in appointing a guardian, courts must give preference to qualified individuals whom you request in your will. This means that you have the opportunity to tell the court in advance who you believe is most qualified to take care of your child, and courts on in the most extreme circumstances contravene the wishes of the parent.
Further, Ark. Code Ann. § 28-73-401(1) allows you to declare the guardian to be a trustee of your assets that would otherwise pass straight to your children. By so doing, you can instruct the guardian when to distribute your assets to your child and on what terms.
Failure to choose a guardian opens the door to all kinds of potential problems for your child. It’s not uncommon for family members to fight over who should be made guardian—especially in laws. It’s also possible that a close family friend might be more capable of taking care of your children than any of your relatives. Yet, without stating a preference in a will, your relatives will almost always have preference over all others.
All that to say, I believe that you do your children a great service by executing a will. If you’ve never made a will, give me a call.