Ever wonder why you need a will if you want all your property to go to your children? That's what will happen with or without the will, right? Not necessarily...
But more importantly, property distribution is not the only issue.
There are important reasons to have a will if you have children who are minors.
Who will care for the children if you die?
One of the most important functions of your will is to designate your preference for guardians of your minor children. For most families, this is a decision that must be carefully weighed and, ideally, discussed thoroughly with the named guardian or guardians. Without a will, the court will have to determine who is best suited to do this.
Who will control and distribute assets to the children if you die?
Minor children cannot directly inherit property in Wisconsin. Because your minor children cannot inherit your property if you die, it is important to establish a testamentary or other trust to which the assets they are to interit may be transferred upon your death. There are two additional reasons for doing this. You can name a trustee that will be in charge of managing and distributing the trust assets until each child reaches the age you designate. It is sometimes best that this person not be the same person who has been named guardian of the children. Second, establishing a trust allows you to control the distribution of your children's interitance. Many people prefer to protect their children's assets until the children reach a designated age (25, for example), rather than fully distributing the assets to the children when they turn 18. Until the children reach the designated age, trust assets are protected by the trustee and used only for purposes specified in the trust, such as food and housing, medical needs, and education.
Who will be in charge of administering your estate after you die?
Your will designates a personal representative who will be in charge of taking inventory of your estate, and otherwise seeing that the terms of the will are carried out. The alternative to making these designations in your will is that the decisions will be made by the court.