Whether you’re a newlywed contemplating starting a family, you recently became a first-time parent, or you’re a seasoned parent with multiple children, it’s never too early (or too late) to start planning for possible end-of-life scenarios. This topic is never easy to talk about or contemplate, but the reality is that establishing an estate plan is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your children are taken care of according to your wishes if anything were to happen to you.
Approximately half of Americans die without an estate plan in place. There are several likely reasons for this statistic. Many people believe that they do not have sufficient assets to warrant the expense of hiring an estate planning attorney. Others may be reluctant to envision and plan for their own deaths. Additionally, some people hold the misconceived notion that the law will take care of things in a satisfactory manner. The truth is that even parents without significant assets still have a strong incentive to plan for the future of their children, and the state laws on intestacy (the set of laws used when someone dies without a will) likely will not line-up perfectly with the actual wishes of a parent. That’s why if you haven’t thought about these topics, and discussed them with you loved ones, it is vitally important you do so.
Minimal Assets Do Not Negate the Necessity of Estate Planning
Through estate planning, you can craft a plan for not only the disposition of your property, but also for the personal care of your children through the designation of a guardian, who would care for your children if you die before they reach the age of 18. Without the designation of a guardian, a court will appoint a guardian to be responsible for your children, which is a scenario that most parents would like to avoid.
It is likely that designating a guardian for your children will be a difficult process, and you should take time to consider all options before making a decision. Some parents choose to designate one person to be the guardian over their children, and a different person to be the property guardian (or trustee) to manage their money for their children until they reach adulthood. It would be in your discretion to appoint one person to take on both of these roles. You may also want to choose an alternate guardian in case the first guardian is unwilling or unable to perform the necessary tasks.
Unwanted Results of Dying Without a Plan in Place
State laws differ on what happens when someone who is married with children dies without a valid will. In Kentucky and Indiana, if you die without a will, under most circumstances, your spouse will inherit only a half of your property. The remaining property would pass to your children, and if those children are under the age of 18, a court would have to appoint a guardian to oversee the interests of the children until adulthood. Undoubtedly, this is a less than desirable outcome – and it’s completely avoidable through estate planning.
Making Sure Your Children are Taken Care Of
There are several different ways to design your estate plan to ensure that your children are taken care of according to your wishes. One of those ways involves the creation of a trust. A trust provides you, the parent, with virtually complete control over your money and property. You will make the call on what age your children must reach before receiving any distributions from the trust. You can direct the trust to provide money for their children for educational purposes only until a specified age. A trust would allow you to make all of these decisions – not a stranger appointed by a court.
To schedule a free consultation to discuss these issues with an estate planning attorney, contact the Law Office of Jonathan A. Hall, PLLC at (859) 469-1955, or fill out a free online case evaluation form. We would be happy to provide a free consultation to discuss these issues with you and your family.