Misconceptions of estate planning can make it sound like a dreadful and time-consuming task, especially for young families. However, with the proper assistance of a qualified estate planning attorney, it can be quite simple.
Crafting an estate plan involves more than just outlining how you want your estate and assets to be managed. Similar to your life changing when you became a parent, your estate plan needs will also change once you have children.
Parents typically expect that their children are going to survive them – we don’t want to think about the alternative. However, there are unfortunate instances where either one or both parents have died leaving minor children behind.
Thus, it is important for you to take the time to consider who you’d like to raise your minor children – should the unthinkable happen – and manage their inherited assets. If you don’t decide, then a court (a stranger to you) will make its own appointments.
A guardian is an individual appointed by a court to care for your minor children. The appointed guardian would be entrusted with all the power and responsibility of a parent. A good estate plan will name a guardian to care for your minor children and also name a guardian (or trustee) to manage the inherited assets for the minor children until they become adults.
Remember, naming the person who you want to raise your minor children in the event of an unexpected tragedy is one of the most important decisions to make. As you begin to evaluate your potential candidates, here are some things to consider:
1. First and foremost, realize that no one but you will be the perfect parent to raise your children. Your candidates aren’t you, so there might have to be compromises in some areas.
2. Make a list of those who you would want to raise your children. Narrow the list by ranking the candidates based on certain values and priorities that are important to you.
3. Your named guardian does not have to be a relative. There might be situations where you believe that a close friend would be a better fit.
4. How comfortable are your children with the candidate? Take your children’s opinions into consideration.
5. How far away does the candidate live? Would your children have to relocate from everything that is familiar to them during an emotionally difficult time?
6. Does the candidate have a similar parenting style that you agree with? If the candidate has their own children, you should take into consideration how the candidate has raised their own children.
7. If the candidate has children of their own, do your children have a healthy relationship with theirs?
8. Would the candidate have the time and energy to take on a guardianship?
9. Is the candidate willing to serve and assume that responsibility? Don’t just assume that the candidate would be – have a conversation with them to discuss your desire to name them as a guardian.
Thinking about not being around to raise your children is understandably not something that many want to consider. However, planning for that “what if” is something that must be thought about and planned for.
Jada L. Gaines is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton. hiltonheadelderlaw.com