How to Write an Online Will If You Have Children?
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How to Write an Online Will If You Have Children?

How do you create a Will if you have children? How do I ensure that my children are protected in my Will? In this article, you'll learn lessons and tips on how you can create an online Will if you have children! Keep reading to learn more!

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When actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died at age 46, he left a fifteen-page Will. I wish I could tell you that having a Will saved Hoffman a fortune and ensured his children were taken care of, but unfortunately, the Oscar-winning actor didn’t think through his choices. Although Hoffman’s accountant recommended that he update his Will, he refused to take the accountant’s advice. He wound up with a Will that made some serious mistakes.

If you have minor children, you need to have a will that is not only legally binding but one that actually communicates your wishes. In this article, we’ll talk through his mistakes and explain how you can write an online will in just minutes.

Denial, Denial, Denial

Only about one-third of Americans have a Will or other estate planning document. That means that most Americans don’t even have a Will, and yet many of these people have minor children. If you have children you should absolutely have a Will. Thankfully, you can make a legally binding Will online in just a few minutes. But to ensure that it does the job, you need to understand the purpose of the Will and how it will impact your minor children. 

Hoffman’s Will was written shortly after the birth of his first child, Cooper, with his girlfriend Mimi O’Donnell. The couple never married and eventually had two daughters, Tallulah and Willa, after Hoffman signed his Will. But he didn’t update the document when the daughters were born. Hoffman also failed to change his Will when he separated from Mimi less than a year before his death. Hoffman died of a drug overdose, and in fact, his drug problem was what led to his separation from his longtime girlfriend.  

Hoffman was well aware of his own addiction problem and knew that his family had grown, but according to his accountant, he resisted attempts to provide directly for the kids. He did not believe in marriage, but if he had married Mimi he could’ve saved significantly on taxes. He told his tax advisor that he didn’t want his kids to be trust fund babies. In his 2004 Will, Hoffman expressed his wishes about how his son would be raised. “It is my strong desire, and not direction to my guardian, that my son, Cooper Hoffman, be raised and reside in or near the borough of Manhattan in the State of New York, or Chicago, Illinois, or San Francisco, California.” It’s good to leave a letter stating your non-binding wishes for how your children are to be raised, but that’s not as important as getting the basics right.

You have to decide three main things when making an online Will to take care of your minor children: naming a guardian, listing your assets and debts, and naming an executor. 

Naming a Guardian in an Online Will

If you have minor kids, you have to name a guardian. Most of the time, the child’s other parent is awarded custody of the children, but you can’t assume that the other parent will outlive you. And if you have someone else in mind entirely, then you ought to make the court aware of your preferences. If the other parent is still living, the judge doesn’t have to follow your recommendation, but he or she will take your wishes into account. 

If both parents are deceased, the probate court will decide who becomes the child’s legal guardian. In these cases, the court will try to appoint the person you name as long as the court believes that is in the best interests of your child. Before naming a guardian, you should have a conversation with the person to make sure they’re willing to serve as your child’s legal guardian.

If you want to name your spouse or the child’s other parent, name that person in the Will.  Also, name an alternative guardian so that there’s a backup just in case the other parent dies or is unable to care for the children. When you’re making these decisions, think about who you believe could take care of your child in your absence. 

Identifying Your Assets and Liabilities in an Online Will

The second key part of your online Will is determining who is entitled to your assets. Most people leave all of their assets to their spouse. Legally, things that are jointly owned between you and your spouse, like houses and bank accounts, will go to the surviving spouse. But you still need a Will because it will speed up the administration of your estate.  

If you’re not married or you’re divorced, then you’ll need to leave clear instructions about what you want to happen to your assets, including personal property. You might want to give your property to your kids, but be aware that minor children can’t inherit assets. If they are named in your Will, then someone else should also be named to manage your kids’ inheritance until the kids turn 18 years old.  In some cases, that will mean your child’s other parent - the person you divorced - will control those assets. If you don’t want that, be sure to appoint someone else to manage the assets. 

It’s also a good idea to connect with your child’s other parent to let them know you’re writing a Will and making guardianship and inheritance decisions. 

To write up your Will, list all of your assets. This includes real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, and life insurance. Some of these accounts aren’t handled through the Will; life insurance, for example, goes to the person you named as a beneficiary.

Your liabilities include mortgages, student loans, credit card balances, and other debts. 

Naming an Executor in an Online Will

To complete your online Will, you need to name an Executor. You can pick any adult who is of sound mind. Some people pick their spouse, but others choose a trusted friend or advisor. Keep in mind that your surviving spouse will be going through a lot, and it could be a good idea to take the pressure off of your husband or wife by having someone else manage the probate process. 

Hoffman’s biggest mistake was not heeding the advice of his advisor. He chose his ex-girlfriend as Executor. If he had listened to the accountant, he would have updated his will after major life changes. If he had set up trust funds for his kids, then he would have ensured that his assets went to his children when they turned 18. Instead, the children’s mother inherited the whole estate.  

Lessons On How to Write a Will When You Have Kids

Nobody really wants to think about their own deaths, let alone the death of their spouse or child’s other parent. Experts say that’s what explains the American reluctance to have a will, even though every single one of us will eventually pass away. It’s also hard for people to imagine dying young before their children are grown up.  But if you use FastWill to create an online will, you’ll be proactively protecting your kids. The ultimate lesson is that you can adequately protect your family with a little foresight.

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