Why you need a will

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

If you are a parent of a young child or children and do not have an estate plan in place, chances are you find yourself in this position for one of three reasons.

First, you wholeheartedly believe that you are invincible. Second, you fail to appreciate the importance of having an estate plan. Or third, as is often the case with couples, you know you need a will, but you are afraid of talking with your spouse about who to name as the guardian of your minor child. Depending on what insults you might spew about your spouse's family and friends during this talk, your fear might very well be justified.

No matter what is holding you back, you should get over it, and this article is intended to help you do just that.

You don't realize how badly you need a will

There are a host of reasons why you need a will and may even need a trust. Most of these reasons deal with the administration and distribution of your child's inheritance, and deserve their own separate discussion. However, whether you are leaving a child $1 or $1,000,000, the single most important reason you need a will is so you can appoint a guardian for your minor children.

If you die without a will, Ohio law provides clear and generally acceptable default provisions for the distribution of your estate. However, there is no such clarity when it comes to who will be appointed as the guardian for minor children. The only real barometer is the children's best interests, and these interests will be determined by a court. The bottom line is this: if you believe you know more about your children's best interests than a court, then you should have a will.

You're afraid of having 'the talk' with your spouse

For couples, agreeing on who to name or even discussing who to name, can be incredibly difficult. You may have gone 10 years in your marriage without making one negative comment about your spouse's family, but that's because all you were ever asked to comment on were the side dishes they bring to family gatherings. When you need to discuss them in the context of potentially raising your children if anything were to happen to you and your spouse, there's a chance that you'll find yourself sleeping on the couch after you bring up the fact that your spouse's sister can't keep a plant alive for more than a week and your spouse's brother thinks chewing gum for 10 minutes is a perfectly fine substitute for brushing his teeth.

No matter how difficult this talk may be, it is still a discussion worth having. To help you and your spouse navigate through the discussion, try to focus on what you believe matters when it comes to picking a prospective guardian, including the guardian's ANTLERS:


Number and age of children



Educational opportunities

Religion and other values

Socio-economic situation

Also, keep in mind that there is no rule that says you and your spouse have to agree. If you and your spouse reach an absolute impasse, each of you could make your own selection, in which case the person appointed by the survivor of you would be able to serve. Even if this method is not ideal, it is still better than not naming anybody and potentially having someone who neither you nor your spouse would have ever chosen wind up being appointed.