Understanding Wills

Death is a natural part of life that we often try to avoid. Yet, no matter how hard we to try to escape it, death awaits us all. While thoughts of our own mortality are never pleasant, planning for your death will ultimately help those you leave behind. A will is a legal document that dictates the handling of your estate in the event of your death and is a particularly vital document to have as a father.

If you do not have a will at the time of your death, your beneficiaries are determined by the state who will also appoint a guardian for your children. As a father, it is especially important to have a will so you can plan for the care of your children when you are no longer there to support them. A will not only enables you to determine who will be the primary caregiver to your children, but allows you take measures to ensure that your children are provided for in the way that you desire in the event of your death.


Every state has its own laws that govern the distribution of assets and carrying out of the last wishes of the deceased. A will enables you determine how your estate will be distributed and to whom it will be distributed. While a will may be a handwritten document or oral statement, it is a good idea to have a self-proving will that is witnessed, signed, and adheres to all the peculiarities of your state’s law. A self-proving will is the most common type of will and is less likely to be determined invalid if you were in a rational state of mind when you had the document drafted. If a will is not formally drafted in accordance with state law, its validity may be called into question. It is best to seek advice from an estate planning attorney to make sure your will is carried out as you intend.

While you may write your own will, it is usually a good idea to consult an attorney with experience in estate planning (see Estate Planning). Wills are legal documents and the way things are worded may impact how your final wishes are carried out. Keep in mind that you will not be around to explain what you meant by something and the interpretation of your will may not be what you had intended. An attorney can help you avoid ambiguities that may affect how your will is carried out. There are various ways to find an attorney to help you draft a will. Recommendations from friends and family are often helpful. However, if you do not have any recommendations to go off of, you can always consult your local Yellow Pages or online attorney directories like AttorneyLocate.com.

Wills are generally easy documents to develop and an attorney can advise you on things to consider including in your will. Attorneys usually draft wills for a flat fee (see Understanding Attorney Fees) that you should ask about before retaining legal services. There are also places online that can help you develop a will such as AllLaw.com. Preparing for the worst now will help you protect your children’s interests in the event of your death.