How to Protect Your Minor Children with an Estate Plan:
While estate planning is essential for all people regardless of age or wealth, it is even more crucial when minor children are involved.
If you die unexpectedly, who will care for your children? Who will administer your estate? Do you know how and when your assets will transfer to your children?
As difficult as it may be to think about a premature death, you must plan for the worst in order to protect your children, both personally and financially. The right estate planning attorney can help you create a plan that meets your needs and works best for your family.
Essential Estate Planning Steps:
To ensure your children remain protected and cared for in the event of your untimely death or incapacity, it’s critical to take some necessary estate planning steps. While every estate plan is unique, here are some of the most useful steps that can be taken:
A.) Name a Guardian.
This is perhaps the most vital component of estate planning with children. By naming a guardian, you choose the person that will raise your child in the event of your death.
In Florida, if one parent dies, the surviving biological parent becomes the child’s sole guardian. Without the proper documentation, if both biological parents are deceased, any family member or other interested person can petition the Court to become the child’s guardian. Ultimately, the judge will select a guardian for the child’s person and property.
When choosing a guardian, consider the following: Will this person raise your children with similar values and beliefs? Is this person physically, mentally, and financially able to care for your child? Where do they live? Are they willing to take on this tremendous responsibility?
Unless the Court finds that the guardian you designated is unfit, the person you selected will be named as the child’s guardian. Making this decision in advance can help avoid disputes between your family members. It can also prevent expensive litigation and protect your children from contentious and lengthy court battles.
B.)Set Up a Trust.
Your child cannot inherit property in their own name until they are 18. This means they could inherit one large sum of money at the tender age of 18.
With a trust, you can decide to distribute funds over time and set out the amounts to be distributed. A trust allows you to control when trust assets can be used and for what purposes. You choose a “trustee” who will manage the trust for the benefit of your child.
Even if you do not have a lot of assets now, you can create a testamentary trust, which designates assets that will transfer to the trust after your death, such as life insurance proceeds.
If you die without a will in Florida, the intestacy statutes govern how your estate will be distributed. Your surviving spouse will inherit everything without a valid will, even if you have minor children together. If you have children with someone other than your spouse, your spouse at the time of your death will inherit one-half of your estate. Your children will equally share the remaining one-half of your estate.
C.) Designate a Healthcare Surrogate.
Florida law allows parents to select an individual to make medical decisions concerning their child if the parents are unable to.
This doesn’t just mean that the designated person can only make decisions if you die. The healthcare surrogate can make decisions regarding your child’s medical care if you are unavailable for any reason, including death.
This may not seem important now but think about situations where this could be crucial. Are there times when you can’t be reached by phone, such as at work? Do you ever leave the country or go on vacation without your children? Do your children enjoy sleepovers with their grandparents or other relatives?
Be sure to choose someone that you trust and who is comfortable making these decisions for you and your child.
The Peace of Mind that Comes with Estate Planning:
Creating an estate plan can be overwhelming, but it will give you peace of mind knowing your children will always be cared for emotionally and financially. Remember, you can always make changes to your plan. To keep your peace of mind, remember to make updates to any existing plans following important events, such as marriage, divorce, deaths, births, or a significant increase or decrease in your assets.
We are Here for You:
The Estate Planning Attorneys at Kelley Kronenberg can help you create a plan tailored to your unique family needs and distinct wishes. Contact us today to schedule your initial no-cost confidential consultation.