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Children

How can I best protect my children?

So this is a question best answered in a personal conversation; however, we can nutshell general educational information here:

Minor children need more protections than adult children but both will benefit from your thoughtful estate planning. It’s essential that you name guardians (and contingent guardians) for minor children in your will; also, be sure to name guardians/trustees of the funds you leave for them. Keep in mind that minor children cannot inherit outright so to avoid such provisions by using trusts. Adult children don’t need guardians but most do benefit from lifetime trusts which can protect their inheritances from a divorcing spouse, lawsuit, bankruptcy, business failure, addiction, and spendthrift spending.

Do I need to update my estate plan to include my newborn?

Yes, anytime you have a significant change in your family, your estate plan needs to be professionally reviewed for necessary changes. You may have provisions in your plan which would cover the child, but don’t take any risks.

Guardians

How do I name guardians for my children?

Guardians for minor children must be named in a will. If you fail to appoint guardians in your will, the court will decide who raises your children. For parents of minor children, this is the most important estate planning decision you’ll ever make.

Even though it’s hard and no one can raise your children as well as you can, move forward and select the guardians you think will muddle through the best. Some folks delay estate planning because they can’t make this decision. Don’t do that; your inaction puts your children at risk. And, be sure to name back up guardians as well in case your first choice is unable to serve if the time comes.

What if the guardians I name for my children can't serve when the time comes?

This is an important question that many folks forget to ask. It’s essential that you name contingent guardians in your will in case your primary guardians are unable or unwilling to serve if the time comes. Life does indeed change, so be sure to also indicate who get the kids if guardians divorce. Check in with the people you’d like to name to be sure they’re willing and able to serve.

Should the same person I name as guardian for my children manage their trust?

Lawyers often say, “it depends,” because it does. Sometimes the same folks are appropriate for both roles and other times, naming different people is the right thing to do. This is what we call a “counseling issue,” meaning that after we talk it through, you’ll know what decision to make. The people who care for your children day-to-day may or may not be the best fit to manage the finances as well. The responsibilities do require different skill sets.

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