For parents of young children, creating an estate plan is far more than an effort to plan for their assets, it is an effort to plan for and protect their children. While there are many considerations that go into creating an estate plan, for parents, one of the most important considerations is naming guardians for their minor children.
While no one wants to consider the possibility of someone else raising their children, naming guardians for your children is one of the most important things your estate plan should accomplish. If your wishes aren’t laid out in your estate plan, the court will name a guardian for your children and there is a possibility your children may even face the involvement of Child Protective Services.
Naming Guardians for Minor Children
At Guttman Law, it is our goal to ensure that our estate plans accomplish our client’s goals and protect their loved ones. In order to protect their children in the event of a client’s passing, we help clients name guardians for their children in their estate plans.
Nominating guardians to provide permanent care for your children if you’re no longer around to do so is a crucial and difficult task. While many people know exactly who they would want to care for their children if something were to happen to them, others feel conflicted or disagree with their spouse on the ideal choice.
Considerations in Naming the Right Guardians
Choosing the right guardian for your children can be an agonizing decision for parents. Attorneys Matt Guttman and Jamie Reff-Wagner have helped hundreds of Minnesota families choose the best loved one to protect their children and carry out their wishes. In analyzing the best choice to help care for your children, we typically suggest considering the following traits and situations:
- Investment: You want to ensure you select a guardian who is committed to the responsibility of raising and caring for your children.
- Age: Your named guardian must be at least 18-years-old and should also be young enough that their health is likely to remain in good condition until your children are grown.
- Personality: It’s helpful to consider what personality type will get along well with your children’s temperaments.
- Belief Systems: Many parents would prefer to have their children raised by someone who shares their religious and moral values.
- Relationship with Children: Ideally, the person you select will already have a good relationship established with your children.
- Location: Will your children be forced to relocate drastically to live with your named guardian? Do you want your children to be able to remain in the same state, city, or school district?
- Resources: Does the person you’ve named have enough time, energy, and financial stability to provide a safe, stable, and caring home for your children?
- Have a “batting order”: Although we may have an ideal guardian in mind, it’s important to prepare for the unexpected in case your first choice is unavailable or incapable when they’re needed. At Guttman Law, we recommend that our clients select a first, second and third (if possible) choice for a guardian, just to be safe.
There is a possibility that family members you do not select as guardians may question or challenge your decision of who is best suited to serve as a guardian to your children once you’re gone. If you suspect this may be a concern, documents preventing specific people from challenging your decision are a key tool to include in your estate plan. This tool is kept private and only utilized in the case of an attempted challenge.
Trusts for Minors
While creating a will does give parents the opportunity to name trusted guardians to take care of their children’s physical care and emotional and well-being, many parents want to do more to safeguard their children’s inheritance. This goal is often accomplished with a trust created in a will or in a separate trust agreement. It is common that the person a client would want to care for their children as a guardian might not be the person they want managing their financial resources after their passing. By engaging in thoughtful and comprehensive estate planning, clients have the opportunity to put the best people and/or professionals in place to carry out their wishes.
Creating a trust gives parents greater control and protection in planning for their children’s futures. By utilizing a trust, parents can determine the amount of money their children will receive, what age they should receive the money at, and outline the proper use for the inheritance (i.e. health, education, housing, career aspirations). Additionally, a trust can help to protect your children’s inheritance against any potential creditors, lawsuits, or future divorces.
Protect Your Most Valuable Assets Before It’s Too Late
We often hear from young parents that they haven’t created an estate plan because they don’t have many assets to plan for. However, of all the assets we plan to protect, our children are by far the most valuable. While no one wants to consider the possibility they won’t be around to care for and protect their kids, an estate plan is a critical tool in ensuring the well-being of your children.
If you have not already created an estate plan or want to ensure that your plan is properly designed to care for your loved ones, contact Guttman Law for a free consultation. Attorneys Matt Guttman and Jamie Reff-Wagner can answer your questions, advise the available strategies and tools to accomplish your goals or review your existing documents.