“Our young children are our lives and our greatest blessings. They mean everything to us and everything we do is with them in mind. They are our past and future put together, and they reflect all of our hopes and dreams combined. As parents of little ones ourselves, we know full well the deep love and fears that fill every parent’s minds and hearts.” – Bridge Law Attorneys
Young families often put off, delay, or downright ignore the idea of estate planning. Holding the belief that they are too young, too healthy, or own too little to necessitate an estate plan. Of course, that logic is in itself, flawed. Even a healthy young adult can experience a life-threatening accident or illness without warning. Planning for this very real possibility is not only responsible but a true expression of love and care.
For this reason, families with young children must take special care when estate planning. Thoughtful and comprehensive planning today will make certain your children are personally cared for and financially secure in the future.
Family Estate Planning Considerations
What Will Happen to Our Children?
- Who will be your child’s short term guardian?
A short term guardian is a trusted person who would likely live near you and your children and who would be able to get to your children in the event something were to happen to you. Often, parents grant the short term guardian the Power of Attorney giving them the authority to make decisions regarding education, healthcare, and other critical discretions on behalf of the children.
This is also important because, without a short term guardian, there is a very high likelihood that your children would spend time in the custody of the police or the department of child protective services during an emergency event.
- What if someone challenges the guardianship?
When choosing a guardian for your children, your decision will likely be determined by your children’s needs first. This sometimes may cause conflict among family members who may believe your chosen guardian to be unfit. Keep in mind that for someone to challenge your designated guardian and succeed, they would need to prove to a judge there was a very good reason to do so. Be that as it may, it is still a good reason to prevent potential conflict now through your estate planning efforts.
Clear and written expression of those you wish to be excluded from guardianship consideration will always carry weight in a court decision. It may possibly upset people close to you but your loyalty lies with your children first and no one else.
- Kids’ Protection Plan Identification Cards.
In the event of your death or incapacitation, as mentioned above, it is likely your children could end up in the custody of law enforcement officers or child protective services until guardianship is determined. Prevention of this traumatic process is crucial, parents can start by carrying child identification cards on their persons. These cards not only identify that you have minor children at home but also provide information for identifying and contacting their short term guardians as well as your estate planning attorneys.
Identification cards will give law enforcement officers and first responders critical information about who and where your children are and where they can go. This can prevent children from entering protective custody while it is determined what will happen to them.
Who Will Take Care of Them?
- Who will be your child’s long term guardians?
One of the most important concerns parents have is naming a legal long term guardian who will be responsible for raising their child should both parents pass away or become incapacitated. A long term guardian shall be responsible for your child’s general welfare including education, health, and physical/emotional care.
You should have complete confidence in your nominated guardian and be certain they are unconditionally willing to accept the responsibility of raising your child.
Many people choose to name successor guardians in the event an initially named guardian is unable or unwilling to take on the role.
- Written Instructions to Guardians.
Beyond the financial assets you may leave to your minor children are the equally important intangible assets. If you are unable to be there for your children, you may still be able to pass on your wishes, personal values, and beliefs. Take time to consider how you would like your selected guardian to raise your children, as these instructions will be invaluable in the event of your death.
The take away is that parents should nominate their children’s guardians based on shared values and principles regarding child rearing, discipline, education, religion, ethics, and ideally; the love and care they will provide your children.
- Medical Powers of Attorney for Minor Children.
This enables your chosen guardian to be able to speak on your behalf to your child’s doctors in order to access medical information and make important medical decisions. Typical medical pertinent powers include the authority to make decisions regarding a child’s medical, dental, and mental health treatment.
This power is not intended to only be used in the event of a parents’ death but also if they happen to only be out of town, for example, during a vacation.
How Will Assets be Distributed?
- Caring for children with special needs.
Special consideration must go into planning for the care of a child with a disability. A special needs trust is one way you can provide care for a child while still maintaining their SSI, Medicaid, or other governmental assistance benefits. Instead of leaving property or other assets directly to the beneficiary, it is left in a special needs trust with an appointed trustee. The trustee will have complete discretion over the distribution of assets for the sole benefit of your loved one.
A special needs trust ends once it is no longer needed, usually when the trust funds have been spent or upon the beneficiary’s death.
- Appoint a Trustee for beneficiary asset distribution.
Usually, distribution of assets can be identified in a trust as discretionary or mandatory and it is often recommended that a combination of both be used where applicable. A commonly used structure involves mandatory distributions at specified ages as to prevent a lump sum award to children at age 18. This is due to many young adults lacking the financial responsibility required to manage large sums of money.
However, a trust fiduciary may be given the power to make distributions based on their discretion where distributions may be made to the beneficiary to support their health, education, maintenance, and support.
Kid’s Protection Planning Starts With You
The foundation of your estate plan should begin with the protection and care of your children. Having families of our own, we take nothing for granted and have a made our Kid’s Protection Planning program a cornerstone of our estate planning services. With a comprehensive approach, we’ll help you make the important decisions needed to ensure you leave no gaps in your estate plan.
When it comes to your children, make no compromise. At Kundani, Chang, Khinda, Wilson, we consider it our mission to help keep your family protected, always. To learn more about our Kid’s Protection Planning program and other estate planning services, please call or contact online our legal experts today!