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Young couples starting out need to consider estate planning

Many people in West Virginia and elsewhere have put estate planning low on their priority list. Beliefs that estate planning is only for rich people and other myths have created a comfortable perception that an estate plan is a luxury and not a necessity. There are many reasons, however, why estate planning is necessary for all individuals and married couples.

For a married couple starting out in a middle class economic strata, with young children or children on the way, having reciprocal simple wills is a necessity of smart living. It protects the children in several important respects. Generally, in a startup situation involving young people, the reciprocal wills that the couple has will serve important purposes. In the unlikely but always possible situation where both husband and wife are deceased, as in a common disaster, the wills can be structured to provide for the appointment of a guardian of the estate funds for the health, education and welfare of the children.

That guardian, also called a trustee, will have the discretion to make expenditures for the welfare of the children, pursuant to the wishes stated by the parents in their estate planning documents. For additional protection in that situation, the wills may provide for a guardian of the person of the children. Although such an appointment is not written in cement and can be changed by a judge when the best interests of the children demand it, the selection in the wills makes one's intentions clear to the whole family.

By stating intentions for estate planning and distribution of one's assets at death, disputes between family members may be avoided. These matters can also be discussed with those family members at the time of making the estate documents or afterwards. The purpose of the provisions of each legal instrument can be explained, further making family disputes much less likely, and adding to a smooth transition when a death occurs. For a family with a new baby, these considerations are intensified. The best way to understand the estate planning structure in West Virginia is to consult with an estate planning attorney.

Source: nerdwallet.com, "Congrats on Your New Baby! Now It's Time for an Estate Plan", Brian McCann, Dec. 22, 2016

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