If you have minor children then you might be wondering, “What are the special considerations you need to be thinking about for your estate planning?”
First and foremost, you want to think about guardians. You want to think about who would be the best caretaker for your children when you are not there to care for them yourself. And you want to also think about things like, “Would I rather that be a couple or just an individual? If I do name a couple, what happens if they are separated or divorced down the road? What happens then?” Or it may be important to you that your child stay in the same geographic area so they can stay in the same school system versus potentially having to move into a new area.
Separate from the caregiving, you also want to think about “Who would be the best steward of the children’s finances while they are still younger?” That person is usually called a trustee. Now some people want to have different people be guardian and trustee for a little bit more checks and balances — to have a little bit of separation there. Others would prefer for it to be all under the same household. Sometimes it really comes down to who your candidates are and whether you are comfortable with them handling both responsibilities. But you also want to be thinking about what happens with your children as they get older. “When and how do you want them to have access directly to their inheritance?” You may want to think about possibly spreading it out over time or including things like educational incentives in there for them to continue higher education.
You might also want to think about some protections that you can put in there, things like protecting them from future lawsuits, creditors or divorce. I know your children are minors and it may seem kind of crazy to already be thinking ahead to a future potential divorce, but the reality is that if something does happen to you while your children are still young, you need to already have that protection in place for them so that it is there down the road when they need it.
Another thing that we like to focus on in our office is emergency planning. We talk about things like emergency guardians. Who are some local people that you would trust with your child in an emergency that could step in and help care for them, especially if your guardians might live further away? And then we will also do things like medical authorizations. Again, in an emergency if you are unavailable, who is authorized to make medical decisions for your children?
If you would like to learn more, check out our webinar, Seven Things Savvy Parents Need to Know About Estate Planning.