Planning for Children
Many parents put off estate planning because they do not think they have substantial assets to protect. This outlook is common among young adults who think they have plenty of time to accumulate wealth and plan for it at a later date. However, in failing to create a proper estate plan, many parents cannot adequately protect their children. All parents, with or without significant assets, should have an estate plan in place to set forth their wishes for their children which includes, among other things, the nomination of a guardian in the event that they have an untimely passing while the child is still a minor.
Long-Term Legal Guardian
In your estate plan, you can appoint a guardian for your children upon your passing. If there is no plan in place, the court will appoint a guardian based on what it deems to be in the best interest of your children or your children may be placed in the care of Child Protective Services. Unfortunately, the court-appointed guardian may not be your first choice and in some cases, he or she may actually be your last choice. From just a few brief hearings, it is often impossible for the courts to determine who is best suited to care for your children in your absence.
Nominating a guardian can be a very difficult decision and one that should not be made without serious consideration. The individual selected should provide stability for your children in the difficult transition and ultimately continue care in a fashion with which you are comfortable. Our firm has a great deal of experience in in the guardianship process and we can provide advice on various aspects of choosing a guardian.
Short-Term Legal Guardian
In the short-term, you’ll also want to authorize temporary guardians to act as emergency first responders so that Child Protective Services doesn’t have to place them in custody before the long-term guardians can get there.
Confidential Exclusion of My Child’s Guardian
All appointed guardians must ultimately be approved by the court at the time of the parents’ passing. If there is anyone who you certainly do not want to have a hand in bringing up your children, we can prepare a confidential exclusion of that individual to only be revealed in the event that that person seeks guardianship through a court proceeding.
Consent to Treatment of Minor
You’ll also want your guardians to be able to make health care decisions for your children, and are aware of any existing medical conditions or if they might suffer any reactions to certain prescriptions. This is where our Consent to Treatment of Minor becomes invaluable for your family.
Instructions to My Guardian
You can also memorialize how you would want your children to be raised in a document that lists the values that are important to you, what you wish for your children, what makes your children most happy, and so on. While not a legal document, this guidance will be invaluable for your guardians, as they try to raise your children as you would.
Family Emergency ID Card
We also create a Family Emergency ID card, that will fit easily in your wallet or purse, and identify your short and long-term guardians and provide their contact information. This way, if you should be in an accident, the paramedics will find this and then the people who you would like to stay with your children- again, instead of Child Protective Services.
Trusts for Minors
Parents of minor children should create a testamentary trust to safeguard inheritances for their children. Such a trust gives you the ability to outline how much money your children will receive, the age at which they will receive the inheritance and to an extent how they are to spend this money. This allows you to designate funds for their college educations and give them their inheritance at a certain age, ensuring that they don’t waste the funds on fancy cars as soon as they turn eighteen. The trust can also protect against potential creditors or even divorce.
Trust funds can also be used to provide support to your children until they reach the age at which they may receive their inheritance. In your estate plan, you must also name a trustee who can ensure this money is handled properly. It is important to note that the trustee may be different from the guardian selected in your estate plan. This is recommended if the guardian is good with children but not with money.
Trusts allow you to still raise your children as you would see fit. You can set aside funds for your children so they are protected if your spouse is not wise with money or remarries after your passing. If you have a special needs child your trust can provide unique care provisions. This is particularly important if you have a child with a physical or mental disability who may require significant care beyond his or her eighteenth birthday.
Here is our unique set of documents that we include in every estate plan for families with minor children:
- Guardian Nomination
- Nomination of Temporary Guardian
- Family Emergency ID card
- Consent to Treatment of Minor
- Instructions to My Child’s Guardian Worksheet
- Confidential Exclusion of Guardian of My Child
We can incorporate these into the estate plan that we make for you, or if you already have a plan in place, we can also create these for you as an accompanying set of documents.