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Estate planning: It’s more than a one-time endeavor

You may think you don’t need one—after all you’re young and have very few assets: A car that’s paid for, sure, and about $7000 in a 401K. It’s hardly worth worrying about.

Or perhaps, even though you are a single parent, you have no money to leave your child anyway—nothing more than about 100 dollars in the bank. Why worry about a will?

When you don’t have a will

In both of these cases, and in every case where a person dies “intestate”—the legal term for dying without a will--there is more at stake than you might imagine. In the former case, assuming you have no children and your parents are still living, if you have not created a will, your assets will go to your folks.

So what, you think. You love your parents. But they are unhappily divorced and without a will, one or both could fight over that car and 7k—each asserting a right to the full estate.

What it means for their future

In the latter case, if you have sole legal and physical custody of your child, you have the responsibility for designating a guardian should you die before your child turns 18.

Without a will stipulating your wishes, the courts are left to wonder what is in the best interests of your child: Maybe it’s your mom, maybe it’s Aunt Suzy and maybe your gnarly ex—who hasn’t seen your daughter, ever—shows up and decides to file a long, protracted custody case.

It is never too soon to create an estate plan. No one likes the idea of preparing for their own passing, but without an estate plan, you leave your decisions to the courts. Creating a will is the kindest thing you can do for the people you love.

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