Most of the time when we think of our estate plans, we think only of what will happen to our assets when we are old and gray? However, have you ever considered what would happen if you and/or your spouse were not here tomorrow? What would happen to your minor children? How would your children be taken care of financially? Who would have custody of them? Most importantly, how will your assets be disposed of or used to care for your children?
If you are anything like me, you constantly worry about your children. It is absolutely natural, and as parents it is what we are supposed to do. We all plan to be here to see our children graduate from high school, then college, then get married, and eventually experience the feeling of spoiling a grandchild. But, what if life does not cooperate with your plan? We all know people who did not make it to see their children graduate from high school. The main question that any parent should be asking themselves is am I prepared? The good news is that you can absolutely control who will raise your children and how your children will benefit from your assets should the unexpected occur. Here’s how:
The first step would be to determine who you will want to have custody of your children. This decision can be incorporated into your estate plan and avoid a possible battle over who should raise your children. The last thing the children need is family members who are mad at each other and don’t speak due to a bitter custody battle because you failed to document your wishes.
The second step is to determine who will manage the assets and finances for your children. This may or may not be the same individual who you select to care for and raise them. We all have family members that we trust for different roles and it is your right to determine who you want to manage the finances for your kids. After all, those are your assets.
The third and final step would be to determine when you want your assets to be distributed to your children. Do you want your eighteen-year-old, considered to be an adult, legally (yikes!), to have access to their entire inheritance? If you have a simple will, that is what could likely happen. However, better planning and the creation of a trust may be the best way to allow you to have the power, even if you are not here, to determine the age(s) at which they receive their inheritance.
Keep in mind that these are general suggestions; each person’s circumstances can be quite different depending on the family. We recommend that you meet with one of our experienced attorneys and tailor a plan that meets your family needs. It is also very important to discuss the main details of your plan with all of your family members, whether you have designated a role for them in your plan or not. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page. Proper planning can provide the comfort to know that should the unfortunate happen, you have laid a foundation to enrich your children’s lives in the long term.