Estate planning is often misunderstood. One of the most common misconceptions is that estate planning only outlines the distribution of a person’s assets after they die. This is not the case, however, especially for parents who are responsible for the guardianship of minors who depend on them for care and financial support. While no parent wants to face the difficulties of planning for a time when they may not be available for their children, it is a necessary step in protecting your children from the many “what ifs” of the future.
The story of Cinderella—believe it or not—contains some valuable lessons about the significance of estate planning for parents. Cinderella’s father passed away without providing any directions for her care, trusting her stepmother to carry on as he would have wished. We all know how that went. Thankfully there is a happy ending there, but we can’t always count on a Prince (or Princess) Charming to save the day.
Estate planning for parents requires unique considerations. How do you future-proof the guardianship of minors to ensure continuity of care as their needs change? How would your children attain access to the financial assets they’ll need in your absence? Answering these and other questions is essential to successful estate planning for parents of minor children.
While there are many estate planning tools that can help parents plan for and protect their children’s futures, a will is an essential piece of the estate planning puzzle. Wills and the guardianship of minors go hand-in-hand. A will provides specific instructions for the guardianship of your minor children, as well as for the distribution of your assets. Passing away without a will, as Cinderella’s father did, leaves your estate and children vulnerable. Rather than following your guidance, the courts will make decisions about who will assume guardianship of your children, and how your assets will be distributed. A will can also determine who will manage your children’s finances, and the long-term care of other assets meant for them.
All of that being said, how do you choose the most appropriate guardian for your children? Is that the same person who should maintain financial power of attorney over the money left behind to care for them, or of their future inheritances?
Here are some questions to ask yourself when determining the guardianship of minors:
Location of guardian: Keeping your child close to the people and places they are familiar with—like family, friends, schools, and neighborhoods—could potentially avoid future trauma.
Financial position: Though your estate plan will provide for your child’s financial needs, considering the potential guardian’s financial status gives added peace of mind should unforeseen circumstances occur. A property guardian can also be designated in your will to manage your child’s inheritance and avoid the guardian being the sole person in control of their finances.
Age of the guardian: Consider this, as well as the overall health of your chosen guardian…especially if you have young children who will require a person to be physically able to meet their demands.
Personal and religious beliefs and values: Having a guardian who closely parallels your own value system and religious beliefs would better align with how you would have raised your child if you were there to do so.
Special needs: A child with special needs requires a guardian who can handle the increased level of financial and emotional care a child with special needs requires—and potentially for much longer than their minor years.
Siblings: Much like with special needs children, guardianship of multiple children comes with additional emotional and financial burdens, which can potentially create more strain. Can your chosen guardian handle more than one child?
After carefully deliberating these crucial elements and choosing the person you’d like to name as your child’s guardian, you need to confirm that your estate planning documents are in order. These documents include your will, beneficiary designations, financial power of attorney, insurance policies and other financial information, titles and property deeds, identity documents, digital login information, and trust specifications.
As a parent, your most important duty is providing for your child. Proper estate planning gives you peace of mind, knowing that your child will be well cared for, no matter what happens. You can take the first step in protecting your child’s future by contacting us to begin or update your estate plan. Our knowledgeable attorneys are experienced in estate planning for parents, and are dedicated to partnering with you to create a plan that will ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you wish.
Learn more and have your questions answered live during our upcoming workshop: Planning for the Guardianship of Minors, on March 10, 2022 from 4-5pm PT, or contact us using the brief form below.