According to a survey by Findlaw.com, approximately 60 percent of parents have yet to formalize a simple will with which to protect their children. But having an estate plan in place, including a will and possibly trusts as well, should be a major concern for every parent. The future may hold decision-making issues regarding disability or incapacity, or the untimely death of one or more parents. As hard as it is to contemplate, one of the choices a responsible parent must make it how to ensure their child or children are safe if anything happens to them. Meeting with an experienced estate planning lawyer is a must for all parents.
Choices that must be made include: nominating a guardian to care for any minor or disabled children left behind, protecting assets, and preserving property. A guardian is someone appointed by the court to care for minor children who are without a parent. Guardianships are appointed by the court to determine life issues such as where the children will reside and the type of care they will receive. A “guardian of the estate” is appointed by the court to oversee any financial affairs until the children come of age.
Parents can stipulate in their will who should be appointed as a guardian for their child, if one is needed. The role of guardian should be discussed at length with an estate planning lawyer to ensure that the right person will be in charge, should they be needed, and to ensure that nomination will survive any challenges that arise from surviving relatives who may have other plans.
A revocable living trust is worth discussing with an estate planning attorney. If no will is left, or the will is not properly executed, the bulk of the estate may be directly given to the children upon reaching the age of 18. Many parents who have crafted estate plan have delayed the distribution of those assets or added in spendthrift provisions as a fiscally prudent move to protect their children from burning through their inheritance.
An estate planning attorney can also help preserve property for the future by minimizing the costs of administering an estate, such as probate fees and federal estate tax.
For more information about estate planning, visit www.littmankrooks.com/elder-law/estate-planning/.