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Wills and estates: What happens to kids when there's no will?

Many young parents today may not realize that part of loving their children entails planning for their care should something happen to them. When British Columbia parents are in their 20s and 30s, they rarely, if ever, think about will and estates. It could be a big mistake in more ways that one if they don't have estate plans in place – especially when it comes to their kids.

Dying intestate (without a will) means that the testator's assets will be divided according to the laws of the province or territory in which the testator lives. For those without a will who have minor children -- under the age of 18 -- any money in the estate will be held in trust for them by an administrator or a guardian. But what is most concerning is who will take care of those children if no guardian has been appointed to do so? If there is a surviving spouse, then he or she will become the guardian; if not, a court will decide who should look after them.

Naming a guardian is only one area of a well-rounded estate plan, but one of the most important. Having a discussion with candidates prior to choosing a guardian is necessary since the responsibility is not to be taken lightly. The individual(s) should be ready, willing and able to take on the care of the children. 

Thinking about what should be included in wills and estates is important at any stage of life, but particularly for parents who have young children. It may mean facing some issues they would rather not face, but planning for the unforeseen is better than the possibilities facing children should one or both parents die without having an estate plan. A British Columbia lawyer can help with the legalities of estate plans to make it much less stressful.

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