Every now and then I come across a heartbreaking story about a father or mother dying, leaving behind young children. Sometimes, it’s both parents, killed in a tragic accident, and their kids are suddenly left orphans. Each time I say a prayer and hope there’s a legal plan in place to sort out the “what’s next?” for those family members and friends still here.
In many cases, however, there’s no plan in place and everyone is left wondering what the parents wanted as for who should take care of their children and manage their assets. As I’ve pointed out before, more than half of those living in the United States do not have a will or estate plan in place. For those in their 20s and 30s, the numbers are even worse. (Understandably, thinking about a will and doing something about it tends not to happen until you hit those “mid-life crisis” years.) But as soon as marriage and children enter the picture, an estate plan really shouldn’t be too far behind.
Of course, no one expects to die, but preparing for the possibility shows your family how much you care.
Here are a few reasons young families should have a legal plan in place for the future:
Name an Executor for Your Estate
An executor is a person who you designate in a Last Will & Testament to handle your affairs after death. You’ll want to select someone who is trustworthy, responsible, and willing to carry out your final wishes. This is also a good time to consider compiling all the information on your assets, logging usernames and passwords for online accounts, and detailing which bills you are paying on a regular basis. Having all these details together in one place will make it easier for your executor to properly handle your estate.
Name a Guardian for Minor Children
If you die, in most cases the surviving parent will be the sole responsible guardian for your children. But what if both of you pass away at the same time? Who will look after your children? It is important you and your spouse consider a family member or friend and talk to him or her about this possibility. Then, you’ll want to put that selection in writing and make it official. If you don’t, the court will have to appoint someone who may not be your preferred choice.
Name Someone to Manage Your Children’s Inheritance
If this is not included in your estate plan, it’s possible the court will appointment someone to manage your children’s inheritance (and often at a cost that will be deducted from the inheritance). It is better to appoint a close family member or friend and set guidelines for when and how much inheritance should be paid out. (Often, children receive their inheritance when they reach legal age, usually 18.) This trust fund may also be used to provide for your children as they grow and help their new caregiver and guardian with the proper financial support.
Plan for Disability
Consider another scenario: What if both parents do not die in a tragic accident, but one or both is left permanently disabled? What now? It is important to consider powers of attorney that give a spouse or close family member the legal authority to make health care decisions for you. Given the circumstances, someone other than your spouse may be in a better position emotionally to weigh in on your care if your spouse is unable or unwilling. You should also consider disability insurance as most life insurances do not pay for disability care.
Once you’ve considered these designations your final step should be to put your plan in place. This is where an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to walk you through the process, offering guidance and ensuring your plan meets your needs. My number is (214) 974-8940 and I’d be happy to talk to you in a FREE consultation and do my best to answer any questions you might have.
Whether you call me or another attorney, you owe it to your children to make the responsible choice and prepare for their future.
ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at [email protected].
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.