How To Explain a Will To a Six-Year-Old
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” – Albert Einstein
I take the quote from good ol’ Al above seriously. Especially when it comes to estate planning. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me they have heard about estate planning and they get the basics, when really, they have no clue what most planning documents are for and why people need them. It’s not their fault either. They probably got an explanation from someone who didn’t fully understand it either.
The point of this blog series is understanding. To grasp the core concepts that, in reality, are so simple. This will allow you to move on to the more advanced topics later. You’ve got to walk before you can run and all that. You will have to bear with me since these conversations could go down the route of being a tad morbid. We will avoid the explanations of death of the afterlife here for everyone’s sake. This is meant for you to get a better understanding. I also don’t plan on writing this post forever.
The Last Will and Testament
First up is the will. This is the bread and butter estate planning document and no plan is complete without one. So how do you explain a will to a six-year old? Here goes:
“A will is a stack of papers where Mommy and Daddy get to decide who gets all of their stuff when they pass away.”
That’s it. That’s all you have to say. Let’s pretend this six-year-old is an actual six-year-old and has some brain-busting follow up questions planned for his or her interrogation of you.
Child: “But why?”
Parent: “Well, you like our house and your things, don’t you? We decide now because we want to make sure you are safe and still have toys to play with and a roof over your head when you are older.”
We won’t get into the nitty gritty here of how your things can go to unintended people or to the state, but just know they can for now.
One other bonus point for all of you parents out there with minor children is the guardianship. So maybe your child throws you this curveball (your child is pretty smart):
Child: “But is that really all a will does?”
Parent: “I’m glad you asked. Mommy and Daddy also get to name the people that will take care of you and raise you to be big and strong if we aren’t around to do that anymore.”
That’s the plain and simple point of naming a Guardian for your kids. If you aren’t there anymore, or you are incapacitated, then who raises your kids? If you don’t name someone that could mean your children go to foster care or end up with a relative you would never want to raise them. We all have that relative. If you don’t, you may be that relative. Sorry. Maybe not though.
That’s it for the will! Next time we will go through explaining a trust to a six-year-old. Get excited.