Estate planning is important for every adult; however, it takes on a heightened importance when you become a parent. From the moment you first lay eyes on your child, you feel an almost primal need to care for and protect that child. There are numerous ways in which you will protect and care for your children throughout your lifetime but there is only one way to accomplish those same goals if you are no longer here – through careful and comprehensive estate planning. An Annapolis estate planning attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior offers some estate planning basics for parents.
Why Is Estate Planning for Children So Important?
As a parent you will undoubtedly focus much of your energy and efforts at creating a stable and financially secure life for your children. You will also try to pass down your wisdom, ideals, and belief system to your children. As long as you are present and capable of doing so, you will ensure that your children are protected and loved. What happens, however, if you are not here one day or are no longer capable of caring for your children? Without an estate plan in place the answer to that question is less than certain.
To begin with, your minor children cannot legally inherit from your estate in the event of your death. Consequently, someone must manage the assets you leave behind for them. Your estate plan is your opportunity to decide for yourself who that person will be. It is also your opportunity to create guidelines and rules to be followed regarding how that inheritance can be spent. Furthermore, if your children are minors, they will need a legal guardian if the worst were to occur and neither parent is able to care for them. Again, your estate plan offers the only formal method of telling a judge who you want to act as your child’s guardian.
Eventually, your children will become adults; however, that does not diminish the need for careful estate planning. Though your children may stand to inherit through intestate succession, you probably want specific assets to be passed down to specific beneficiaries, hence the continues need for an estate plan. Making your wishes clear also greatly diminishes the likelihood of litigation when your estate goes through the probate process following your death. Finally, your estate plan allows you to express your wishes regarding end of life medical treatment as well as funeral and burial planning. Without an estate plan in place to provide guidance on these issues, your adult children may be unsure of your wishes and not know how to proceed. If they don’t agree on how to proceed, a costly and divisive court battle may ensue that could cause a rift in the family for many years to come.
Estate Planning Tools and Strategies for Parents
Fortunately, many of the most basic estate planning tools and strategies can be used to provide you with the peace of mind that every parent wants and needs. Starting with your Last Will and Testament, you can ensure that specific assets are passed down to the beneficiaries of your choosing. You will also be able to appoint your Executor and nominate someone to be your children’s guardian if one is ever needed. While your children are minors, a trust can be established to protect and manage the inheritance you leave behind for your children. As the Settlor of the trust, you choose the Trustee who will manage the trust assets and administer the trust using the terms you create. That same trust can be used to stagger your children’s inheritance when they become adults to avoid the problems often associated with a sizeable lump sum inheritance. Once they are adults, including an advance directive and funeral planning in your estate plan ensures both that your wishes will be honored at the end of your life and that your children will not be forced to make difficult decisions during such an emotional time. A well thought out estate plan benefits both you and your children throughout your lifetime and beyond.
Contact an Annapolis Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning for parents, contact an experienced Annapolis estate planning attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior by calling (410) 573-4818 to schedule an appointment.