If you are divorced and have minor children, you should make a will. For two main reasons. You need to appoint someone to handle the money you leave your children. You also need to pick someone to take care of kids, if you and your ex both die.
Who Takes Care of Your Children’s Inheritance?
If you die without a will, the Court will give your children’s inheritance to their guardian. This is probably your ex. However, there are many reasons why you might not want your hard earned money to be given to your ex.
Your ex might not be good with money. They might have a drinking, drug and/or gambling problem. Your ex might spend that money on a fancy car to haul your kids around, instead of saving it to buy a car for the kids’ themselves.
The problem is that once the Court gives the inheritance to your ex, no one will be there to make sure that the money will be spent on your kids.
What if your ex can’t take care of your kids? Your ex could be in prison or rehab. He or she could be suffering from a physical or mental disability. In such a case the Court, would give the money to whoever was taking care of your kids. This could be some family member, or even the State.
Wouldn’t you want to pick someone you trust to handle the money that you leave for your children? To know that your kids’ inheritance will be spent on them, not someone else? The only way to do that is to appoint a conservator for your minor children’s estate in your will.
Who Takes Care of Your Children if You and Your Ex Wife or Husband Both Die?
Although this is unlikely to happen, you can have a say in this decision, even after your death.
When both parents of a minor child die, (or if neither parent can care for the child), then the Court will appoint a Guardian for that child. A Guardian basically steps into the role of a parent for the child.
Each State has a priority list of people for appointment as a guardian of a minor. However, the general order is as follows:
- A parent of the minor,
- The person nominated as guardian in the will of the custodial parent,
- The person requested by a minor of sufficient age (say fourteen), or
- Any other person whose appointment is in the minor’s best interest.
As you can see, if your ex has passed, or cannot care for your child, then the person you appoint in your will is the person the Court is most likely to appoint as the guardian.
Even if you were not the custodial parent, the Court will consider the person you nominated in your will. The Judge does not know your child’s family, and will appreciate the suggestion. Especially if you were a responsible parent before your death.
You can decide who will take care of the inheritance you leave your children by appointing a Conservator for them in your will. You can also have a say in who takes care of your children after your death by nominating a Guardian for them in your will.
Those are the two main reasons why divorced people with minor children should make a will.
By Steve Harton
Steve is an estate planning attorney in Rock Springs, Wyoming. If you would like to make yourself a will in Wyoming, please give him a call at 307-459-6468.