One of the most common topics I receive questions on as an estate planning and guardianship attorney revolves around what will happen to my minor children if I die? It is understandably an important concern of parents since most often, our children are the most important part of our lives. I want to dive in to some specific questions I frequently receive in more depth as discussed below:
What do I need to do to ensure that my children will be cared for in the event of death?
By far, this is most asked question that I get in this area of the law. The first step is to discuss with your spouse if you are married, or if single, think about at least two different persons or a married couple that you would want to be responsible for your children in the event of your death. Next, you should have a discussion with those persons to gauge their willingness to serve as a guardian of your minor children if called upon. Once you get the confirmation, you should consult an estate planning attorney to execute a document that correctly reflects who you want to nominate to serve as guardian in the event of your death. It is not enough to simply have the discussion without executing the legal document that nominates the potential guardian. Courts and Judges will look to this executed document when considering who to appoint as guardian and will give preference to your nominations above other potential parties seeking appointment, if this document is properly executed.
How do I financially provide for my children in case I pass away?
Naturally, parents want to leave everything they own at their death to their spouse or to their children. A common mistake is that parents leave everything outright to their children, which causes issues for the children. Children are not allowed to accept an inheritance until they reach the age of 18. Estate planning attorneys use a tool called a minor’s trust to include as part of estate plan which allows for the would be inherited estate to be preserved inside of a trust for the minor’s benefit until the reach adulthood. Without a minor’s trust or other proper planning, a family member would have to apply with the court to be named the guardian of the child’s estate, requiring a significant time and financial burden.
The important takeaway should be to get started on planning for the contingencies of life if you have minor children. If the worst should happen, you will want your child’s care and financial status to be as stable as possible. Begin thinking about the people you trust that would be responsible for your children, and then set up an appointment to speak to an estate planning attorney immediately.