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MotherA mother’s instinct is to provide for her children in every way possible.  Having a newborn hardly seems to be the right time to think about a will.  Regardless of whether you want to focus on a new life or to set as much about life in order as possible, the are at least five considerations to think about.

1. Naming a guardian could be the most important part of your will

If your children are minors when you pass away, the court will appoint a guardian to provide for your children’s care.  In your will, you nominate your guardian, and so express your wishes to the court.  If you do not name a guardian, the court will have no expressed preferences from you.  While the judge has the final say, expressing your wishes is very influential in this process, and it helps make sure that your children are taken care of by someone you trust.

2. Name an executor you trust

The executor, or personal representative in Colorado, is the person who administers your will.  It is easy to see why it is important for you to name someone that you can trust with your possessions and to make sure that everything is properly passed down to your children.  Whether it be a family member, a friend, or an attorney, you need to choose someone that you can trust.

3. Named beneficiaries on your financial accounts may override the will

Your will does not govern all your property.  Some accounts, such as life insurance, IRA’s, and sometimes bank accounts, allow you to name a beneficiary of those accounts after you pass.  If you name a beneficiary, these accounts are not controlled by your will, even if you insert language in the trust about those accounts.  When you create a will, that is a good time to review all your assets to make sure that your entire property is treated consistently according to your wishes.

4. A will is not always the right document for your goals

A will only comes into play after you pass away, and all your property is given away in lump sums at the end of administering your will.  That may not be what you want.  Further, if you have a will, and your children are still minors, the court will step in and administer your assets until your child turns 21.  Many individuals may not want a judge involved or trust their children with complete control over property at 21.

A trust addresses both of these problems.  A trust is administered privately, without the influence of a judge.  Also, a trust can continue to hold property for years or even decades, far after your children’s 21st birthday.  Your property can be distributed out according to your wishes.

5. In the absence of clearly stated intentions, the state steps in

If you do not draft a will or trust, the state of Colorado has an estate plan for you.  However, it is possible that the state’s plan does not line up with your wishes.  In fact, it rarely does.  A will or a trust are your written instructions of what you want to have happen.  Also, if you do create a will or trust, but you are unclear about your wishes, then a judge will have to step in and interpret your will or trust for you.  Again, your estate plan may be administered differently than you wish.

Final Thoughts for New Mothers

Providing for your children has a lot of demands, both estate planning and not estate planning.  A basic plan may involve a will, but a more comprehensive plan may require more.  It is important for you to talk with an estate planning attorney to help determine what is best for you and your family.