Do you have young children? If yes, while you may have other concerns about your estate planning, they’re the main reason you’re here. So, what arrangements have you made for their care should something happen to you and their other parent?
As with your own personal, health care and financial decisions, would you rather select the guardians (i.e., back-up parents) yourself, or let a probate judge make the selection without your input? Only through proper legal planning can you select the guardians.
There are three critical choices commonly faced by parents of minor children. First, who will take care of my minor children? Second, who will manage their inheritance? Third, when will the children be old enough to receive their inheritance themselves?
It is very important that you select who you would want to become the guardians of your children. This decision is probably the one you have thought about the most when it comes to your estate plan.
While every family situation is unique, here are some general practical pointers to consider when selecting guardians for your minor children:
- Always have at least one back up to your first choice;
- Select guardians who share your faith, values and life priorities; and already have an established positive relationship with your minor children;
- Consider, when selecting a married family member, appointing the family member only, in case your family member predeceases or they divorce;
- Make sure your legal plans provide for the compensation of the guardians, or at least that the inheritance is available to cover all legitimate expenses incurred when raising your minor children;
- Consider whether there is anyone that you would not want to be appointed guardian or to be left alone with your children;
- Obtain permission of the selected guardians before appointing them; and
- If the person you would choose lives out of state, consider appointing a temporary guardian to pick the kids up from school and keep them until the permanent guardian can travel to the area.
Great care must be taken when selecting someone to administer and distribute the inheritance. When you have a living trust based estate plan, this is called your “trustee.” This may or may not be the same person as who will be your children’s legal guardian. What if you and the other biological parent are divorced or were never married? If you are separated, divorced or never married to the surviving biological parent of your shared minor children, then that parent will continue to be their guardian, absent a court-proven case of unfitness. Even though he or she may be your child’s legal guardian, would you also want them to control the inheritance you leave behind, too? Or, maybe the person you choose to be guardian will be great in that role, but you are worried about their ability to manage money responsibly.
We can help guide you in making the right choice when it comes to selecting your children’s trustee.
Under the law, children become legal adults when they turn 18. If you’ve ever met an 18 year old, you probably question the wisdom of this. For your own children, you may be concerned that they will receive their entire inheritance at 18 years old and would not be able to manage it responsibly.
Your estate plan should take into consideration what will happen after your children become legal adults. Do you want them to go to college? Who would you want to guide them financially as they enter into adulthood?
As you can see, selecting guardians and trustees is a critical decision, and requires your unique family circumstances and goals to be considered. Few decisions in life are more important. Only you can make these decisions through proper estate planning. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your personal estate plan and have your questions answered.