Estate planning offers a way to take care of your minor children if you pass away before they turn 18, finish school, or earn a college degree. While most people think of the estate planning consists primarily of the dispersal of assets, we can also assist with several other legal issues which we can prepare for during our work on your will and related documents.
Many people come to us for help when they are having or adopting a baby. This is a common trigger that gets couples thinking about making a will and getting their estate plan in order. Even if your family is complete and your children are growing up, it is never too late to put protections in place in case something happens to both you and your child’s other parent.
Identifying Guardians and Establishing Guardianship
The best way to ensure your children continue to live the quality of life you currently provide and to build a strong foundation for their future success is to choose the right guardians to care for them if you or your spouse can no longer do so. During the estate planning process, you will identify possible guardians and approach them to discuss your plan to name them as custodians if something happens to both you and your child’s other parent.
Our attorneys, social workers, and registered nurse can offer support and advice about how to determine who might be the best option, and how to approach this conversation with them. We can outline their responsibilities for you, and ensure they understand the nature of your request. Once you are certain about your choice, we will draft the legal documents for you, and establish the guardian relationship that will go into effect immediately if you both die or become incapacitated.
If something happens to both you and the other parent without this type of document in your file, the task of assigning guardianship will fall to a judge in the local court system who does not know your children, or your family and friends, and could possibly appoint another guardian applicant.
Determining How Important Decisions Will Be Made About Your Children’s Future
Often, parents leave important decisions up to the guardians they have chosen if something happens to them before their children turn 18. However, there are a few things you will likely want to have the final say about. We can put these stipulations and other priorities in writing, as a part of your estate planning process.
For example, if you want your children to continue following a specific religion or attending private school, we could include this. We can also add information about higher education and how to address certain health needs. For families with special needs children, this can be especially important.
Managing Your Children’s Finances and Choosing Fiduciaries
There are several ways we can handle your minor children’s financial future if you pass away before they turn 18. First of all, you can simply choose fiduciaries to oversee their bank account and spending until they reach a certain age. This may or may not be the guardians who provide their day-to-day care. This is not necessarily a good option if there is a significant sum of money, however. A trust offers many more benefits.
Often, we establish a children’s trust as a part of their parent’s estate planning process. When the executor administers the will, they file the insurance claim and fund the trust as a part of the process. Other assets from your estate may also help to fund this trust.
When you decide to establish a trust of this type, you will also name someone responsible for overseeing it and paying out the funds. We can help you set limits on how the trustee disburses this money and provide a guideline for them to use when approving expenditures.
You will also decide when your children gain control of their portion, if any remains after they turn 18, graduate high school, earn a college degree, or turn 25. We can discuss the pros and cons of each to allow you to make an informed decision.
Let Bratton Scott Give You Peace of Mind About Your Children’s Future
The estate planning lawyers at Bratton Scott know it is not easy to think about what would happen to your children if something devastating occurred and took your life or your partner’s life. However, we also know how important this type of plan in place can be. We will walk you through the entire estate planning process, approaching each step with compassion and support. We know you want the best for your children, and we can help you provide it even if the worst happens and you can no longer care for them.
Call us today at 856-857-6007 to get started.