Planning for Parents of Minor Children

If you are a parent of minor children, it is critical that you have an estate plan that it is comprehensive and includes protections for your children.  Too often parents of minor children postpone estate plan because they are busy raising their growing family. 

After all, if you are married with children, estate planning seems pretty straightforward, right? You may want your spouse to make decisions for you when you are incapacitated, you want your spouse to receive your assets when you die and then to your children after your spouse passes away. 

It may sound “simple,” but there are a myriad of decisions that need to be determined to ensure your family stays out of court and out of conflict in the event of incapacity and at death.

At the very minimum, every couple or single parent with minor children should have a will and a nomination of guardian for their children.  When deciding who to nominate as guardian, it is critical to consider the big picture, including lifestyle choices and values.  You must also think about change of life circumstances for the named guardian, such as a divorce, remarriage or move to a new city or state.   

Without proper and comprehensive estate planning any of the following could happen to your minor children in the event of your incapacity or death:

  • Your children could be placed in the care of Child Protective Services. While it would probably be temporary, you probably don’t want your children in the custody of a stranger for any amount of time. Even if you have a will and a trust, without the proper custody and legal documents in place, the authorities will not know who to call and your trusted loved ones will not have the paperwork establishing their legal authority to take your minor children.
  • Your children could be placed into the care of someone you would never want to be in charge of your kids, such as that family member who simply doesn’t share your values or has poor judgment.
  • If you do not have a will naming a guardian, a judge must appoint a guardian. In making the decision, the court will make a decision based on state law and that may not equal what you, as parents, consider to be in the best interests of your children. Since the court does not know your values, lifestyle and guidelines, a guardian may be appointed who may not be who you would have wanted.
  • Your family could wind up in a protracted custody battle if no one was nominated or someone could challenge the guardians you have designated.
  • Your estate could lose up to 5% of the value of your assets in court costs and other unnecessary fees through the probate process. Probate is a court process that can tie up your assets for years and deprive your children of the resources they need to live reasonably.
  • When your children turn 18, they would receive their inheritance outright, subjecting their inheritance to being squandered. Without proper planning, your affairs would be subject to court proceedings and your personal affairs become public record. Unfortunately, there are criminals who comb public records to find the 18-year-olds who are receiving inheritance checks and they set out to defraud them.

We know this all sounds scary. At Cheever Law, APC we can help you choose the best guardian for your children and design an estate plan that will ensure that none of these scary things happens to your family. 

We know you are busy and this is a topic that is difficult to discuss as it deals with a lot of sensitive topics. We promise to make the process as smooth and easy for you as possible.  Click here to get started