Life is full of surprises. Unfortunately, not all of them are good. We never know when injury, illness or even death might occur and these unexpected events leave our loved ones to deal with the aftermath. This can be even more difficult when those loved ones are minor children, as they’ll need someone to care for them in your absence.
Fortunately, there are things you can do now to ensure that your children are well cared for, even after you’re gone. An estate plan includes documents that can provide for your children’s immediate well-being as well as their future.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to name a guardian to oversee the day-to-day care of your young ones. This should not only be someone you trust but also someone with the same values and beliefs as you. Consider your guardian’s living situation as well as the schools your children will attend, the religion they will practice and anything else that’s important to your children’s upbringing.
Also remember that if you choose a couple – your brother and his wife for example, the wife would then assume sole custody of the children if your brother passed away first. Be sure that this is your intention before you make such a designation.
In addition to choosing a guardian, you’ll also want to decide who should oversee your children’s financial affairs. This is known as a custodian and it does not have to be the same person as your designated guardian. This person will be in charge of managing your children’s assets until they come of age so choose someone who is a capable money-manager.
A trust will give you the flexibility to provide your children’s inheritance in smaller increments, even based on certain milestones and accomplishments if you wish. This document effectively creates a legal entity that holds title to your children’s assets until such time you designate the assets should be transferred. The trust is managed by a trustee, which may or may not be the same person you’ve chosen to act as guardian and/or conservator.
Making these difficult decisions now will ensure that your children are always well-protected, no matter what the future might hold.