If you die or become permanently incapacitated before your children become self-sufficient adults, there are 3 major questions parents should have answered:
1) Who will raise your children and how will your children be parented?
2) How will your children be financially provided for?
3) How will you memorialize your legacy for your children?
While it is good to have thought about and even talked about what you would want to happen with your family in the event of a tragic event, the only way to know that your wishes for your children will be carried out is with a legally enforceable estate plan with binding documents that fully detail your desires. We also believe that memorializing your legacy is one of the most important pieces of your estate plan, so we incorporate legacy planning into all of our plans.
This is undoubtedly a difficult concept to fathom much less plan for. But if you are a parent of children who are counting on you, your estate plan must begin with ensuring your children would always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what happens.
Without the proper legal planning, if the unthinkable happens to you, your children could be placed into the care of Child Protective Services while authorities determine who will take care of them. This would very likely be temporary but you would never want your children in the arms of strangers for even one minute, especially in a time of crisis.
Ultimately, the court – more specifically a judge –who doesn’t know you, or your family, will decide who will raise your kids. Any person can petition to become your child’s Guardian, so your children could be put into the custody and care of someone you would never want, like that one family member who has good intentions, but you’d never want raising your kids. The judge makes this determination based upon what he or she thinks is in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately with no planning by the parents, the judge does not have any direction from the parents on who they think would be the best person to raise the child(ren) they love.
We recommend that parents give thought to 3 groups of people when we’re designing your plan.
First, list those individuals who are geographically close and could immediately step in to help with your children if something happened, in order to prevent the children from going into Child Protective Services or temporary foster care.
Secondly, determine the people who you would like to take over parenting for your children permanently.
Last, are those people who under no circumstances do you want to care for your children. For various reasons, there may be some people who you definitely do not want to raise your children. This third group is listed out in a way that provides details if necessary to prevent them from raising your children.
Next, your estate plan should not only determine who will raise your minor children, it should provide guidance and instructions to the guardians you have chosen to raise your children on how you want them to be raised.
What values you want your children to grow up with?
What religion or spiritual activities do you want them to be involved in?
What type of education do you want for your children?
These are just a few of the in-depth questions we have thought through for our clients when designing their personalized estate plan. All of our estate plans include legacy letters, allowing you to communicate any personal advice and guidance that you would like to leave children, guardians, your children, and other advisors. For more information on our Legacy Planning services, click HERE.
If both parents of a minor child die without any planning, any money or property the minor child inherits will be supervised by the court. The court will appoint a person, a Conservator of the Estate, to manage that money and property for the benefit of the minor child until the child turns 18. Once the child turns 18, he or she is entitled to have all the money and property turned over to him or her. To date, we haven’t had a single client who thought having a large sum of money handed over to an 18 year old was a good idea.
At a minimum, we include provisions in our planning that have the money and property for children held by a trusted person that you, the parent, has nominated until your child reaches an age you have determined. You as the parents are not only able to specify the person who manages these funds, but also you can also provide guidelines and direction for how the funds are used for children.
Learn more about estate planning and our team at one of our complimentary Estate Planning Educational Talks. Seating is limited and childcare is available. Learn more by clicking HERE.
Attendees are also invited to schedule a complimentary hour with one of our estate planning attorneys who will guide them on the best strategies for their estate plan. Please contact us at (770)285-0033 or schedule by clicking HERE.