From the Lawyer's Desk: I Don’t Need a Will…Do I?

Attorneys from Paule, Camazine and Blumenthal will post a weekly blog on legal topics of interest. To submit a topic please email: fromthelawyersdesk@pcblawfirm.com


By Melissa G. Nolan of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C.

A young couple gets married, saves some money to buy a house, then has a child.  They don’t have much in the way of assets; in fact, their debt may exceed their assets, so they don’t need a will.  Or do they?

Most people assume that if they die without a will, all of their property will go automatically to their spouse.  However, that is not true if the individual has children.  Instead, the children as well as the spouse will get a share of the property.  Even worse, if a child is under the age of majority (18 in Missouri), a conservator must be appointed by the court to manage the property for the child.  The conservator must post a bond with the court and get the court’s approval to make a distribution for the child.  Additionally, the conservator must file an annual accounting with the court and pay fees to the court (and to an attorney).  When the child reaches age 18, the child receives the property outright. 

A parent can avoid the necessity of a conservatorship by having a will establishing a trust for the minor children.  The will would appoint someone to be trustee of the trust to be responsible investing the funds and distributing money to the children, or on their behalf.  There is no active court supervision or fees paid to the court. 

Another reason younger parents need to have a will is that a will allows parents to designate who they want to take care of the children if something happens to both parents.  Parents can designate in their wills who they want to serve as their children’s guardian.  If there is no will, the court will be left on its own to decide who should raise the child.  By designating someone, the parent is able to consider not only family relationships and who may have the financial resources to raise the child but also who would raise the child as the parent would have raised the child. 

By spending a little time and money now, parents of young children are able to ensure that their children, as well as their assets, are protected in the event tragedy strikes the family when the children are young.  The peace of mind obtained will be worth the expense.


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