Considerations in Naming Guardians for Children

If you’re like us, and like a lot of our clients, you have young children.  Raymond and his wife have a 5-year-old daughter, and Scott and his wife have a 5-year-old son and a 19-month-old daughter.  You’ve probably thought about what life might look like if you weren’t around to care for them.  Studies show that 1.2 million children will lose a parent because of their death prior to the age of 15.  While we all hope that this will never happen to our family, we as parents must prepare for it.

Any time that we work with clients who have children who are under the age of 18, we spend considerable time with them developing a clear picture about what they think life will look like if they are gone.  While it isn’t the most pleasant thing to consider or talk about, it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that our kids are taken care of no matter the circumstances.  Two issues that consistently must be addressed when we talk to parents about their planning goals are:

  • Who is going to take care of my kids if I die?
  • How do I make sure that my financial resources are available to help my kids?

Who is going to take care of my kids?

Of all the questions that we help clients answer, this is by far the most important one.  Selecting a guardian for kids prior to death is paramount.  If a parent does not select the caretaker for their child, then it is up to a Court to decide who will do so.  While most judges have the best of intentions, their duty in selecting a guardian for a child is limited to who is willing to take that child, and who is asking the Court to name them as guardian.  While the potential caretaker is likely well meaning, they might not be who you would have chosen to take care of your child, and they might not be the right fit for your child’s needs.  By taking the time to sit down and select your choice for the guardian, and by taking the time to talk candidly and fully with your estate planning attorney about potential issues that they have seen in their experience, more thoughtful choices can be made, and parents have far greater certainty that they have made the right choice for the person or people that might be raising their child.

How do I make sure that my financial resources are available to help my kids? 

Children under the age of 21 cannot inherit monies, even from their parents without some restrictions on them.  If a parent leaves money through some sort of beneficiary designation from a life insurance policy, retirement account, or other asset, either a special type of financial account must be opened, or a court will require a trust to be set up for that child’s benefit.  Many parents believe that just leaving a Will can direct where their assets go for their minor children, but a Will just mandates that a Court must involve itself to direct how those assets will be kept until the child reaches the age of majority.  A far better plan is to complete a comprehensive estate plan with your estate planning attorney.  By deciding who will be in charge of overseeing the assets left to your child and determining when and what for those assets will be used, parent can make sure that their wishes are being upheld, and that their children will have money available long term to care for their needs.  They can also choose at what age they would like their children to inherit the money and take a larger ownership role in deciding how they want to use that inheritance.

Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Lawyer in St. Charles

There are many things to consider when deciding how kids should be cared for when parents die prematurely.  An experienced estate planning attorney can dramatically help.  If you need advice on how to plan for your minor children in Missouri, do not hesitate to contact Polaris Law Group and St. Charles trust and estate lawyers Scott Stork and Raymond Chandler. Schedule a meeting with Scott or Raymond today by phone or by filling out a quick contact form today.

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