Do you have children or plan to have children in the near future? If so, do you have a current estate plan to provide for your children in the event of your death?
A 2017 survey performed by Caring.com found that only 36% of parents with children under the age of eighteen (18) have an end-of-life plan in place. Although planning for death is not something most parents look forward to doing, executing such a plan allows parents to direct and maintain control over the care of a child in the event of their deaths.
The most important part of estate planning with a minor child is designating a guardian to care for the child. If both parents of a minor child die, the guardian is the person who will be responsible for the care of the child. In most cases, the guardian will effectively fill the place of the parents and will ensure that the child’s needs, including health care, education, maintenance, and general welfare, are met until the child reaches the age of eighteen (18). Parents can designate a guardian for their child by executing a Last Will and Testament.
When parents die without designating a guardian in their estate planning documents, the court will choose and appoint a guardian to care for the minor child (“guardian of the person”). Oftentimes disputes arise between family members over who the court should select as the guardian. The court will hear the testimony of the applicants, and it will ultimately decide which applicant will become the guardian. The guardian chosen by the court may not be the person who the parents themselves would have chosen as guardian. To avoid the court selecting a guardian for a minor child, parents should be sure to execute estate planning documents that include a guardianship designation for any children.
Additionally, parents should plan for the disposition of their assets to children. If the parents of a minor child die without an estate plan, the court may need to appoint a guardian to manage the inherited assets (“guardian of the estate”) during the child’s minority. In most cases, upon reaching the age of eighteen, the child will then assume the inherited assets as their own.
By executing estate planning documents, parents can maintain control over the inheritance that a child will receive at their death, even if the child is over the age of eighteen. To effectuate this, some parents may choose to create a trust. A trust can set forth conditions for the disposition of the assets, including the age or ages a child will receive their inheritance. Because of its versatility, the trust is an important tool for parents to consider for estate planning.
If you are a parent, or are thinking of becoming one, it is important for you to consider executing estate planning documents to plan for the care of your children.
*This information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, you should contact an attorney. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. *