There is much you can do to protect your young children with estate planning. However, if you do not have an estate plan, the court will interfere and your children could be placed into foster care. In addition, their assets may be seized by creditors, divorcing spouses, and predators.
First, you need to make a will and appoint guardians to raise your children in case of your death. Be sure to name contingent guardians as well, in case your primary guardians are unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes. This avoids family fights, especially if more than one person steps forward to care for the children. And it avoids your children being placed into foster care if no one steps forward to care for them.
Second, make provisions for trust shares for your children in your revocable living trust. Appoint primary and contingent trustees of your children’s trusts.
These trust shares can be designed to:
- Avoid court interference since minors can’t inherit or own property.
- Avoid seizure by creditors and divorcing spouses.
- Avoid predators by saying, “It’s all tied up in trust.”
- Avoid disqualification of special needs beneficiaries from governmental assistance.
- Avoid assets going directly to drug, alcohol, or gambling addicted beneficiaries.
- Avoid having assets go outright to children at age 18.
- Have children serve as co-trustees as they get older.
Third, execute a first responder authorization so that trusted friends and neighbors are authorized to stay with your children in the event of emergency. This prevents your children being placed into foster care.
Fourth, execute a stand-by guardianship authorization, appointing the same guardians you named in your will, as guardians during your lifetime in the event you become incapacitated. Your will isn’t effective unless you’re dead.
Fifth, write your children a love note, designate a special personal item for each of them, and make sure you are in photographs with them. Tell them you love them.
To protect your young children with estate planning, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.