Forget the money. Get a will for your kids.

One of the most tragic stories I ever heard was of a couple who were in a fatal car accident on the way home from the hospital with their newborn daughter. The baby survived without a scratch; both parents died. What made it even more tragic was that the parents did not have wills, and so to that tragedy was added another, of multiple family members fighting in court over who had the right to be the baby’s guardian.

The reason I heard this story was that my partner told it to me multiple times while I was pregnant with my first child. My husband and I had done wills shortly after moving in together, but hadn’t gotten around to redoing them after they were revoked when we got married, knowing that we were planning to start a family fairly soon. After several months of regular reminders, we finally sat down, had a VERY long discussion about who to pick, contacted them to make sure they were okay with being chosen, and then signed new wills. And just in time: our son was born about six weeks after we signed them, almost four weeks earlier than expected. Life has its own plans.

Choosing a guardian is not an easy task. In fact, it was probably one of the most difficult decisions we had to make. It’s hard to even think about not being there for your kids, let alone dwell on the subject long enough to decide who would raise them for you. But not making a decision is so much worse – and is its own decision. For one, only family members have a right to apply, so that takes out any friends who might be better suited, for geographic reasons or otherwise; also, any family member can apply, including ones who are completely unsuitable. If you have converted to a different religion, or your family is not in Ontario or even Canada, it becomes even more critical to have a guardian named.

Choosing a guardian is a difficult decision. Refusing to choose one, in not doing your will, does not make the problem go away.