Being a responsible parent is usually associated with car seats, safety gear, homework reminders for grade schoolers and trying to decide whether or not your teenager is responsible enough to drive to school on his or her own. Creating an estate plan for those children is not something we usually associate with responsible parenting, but, as a Newport Beach will lawyer and a parent, I know that it is just as important as all of that other stuff.
No one likes to think about their death, but as a responsible parent you have to ensure your child’s emotional and financial future is protected, even if that future does not include you. Think of all the decisions you make every day raising your child. It is vital to their growth that someone will always be there.
The first step of estate planning when you have minor children should be the process of selecting a legal guardian. By naming a legal guardian, you can hand-select who will raise your children if something happens to you. If you don’t, a judge (who doesn’t know you or your family) will be responsible to make this decision.
You will also want to name short-term guardians if your long-term guardian does not live close by or travels a lot. This is a person who could care for your children quickly so that your kids are never forced to spend a second in the care of social services waiting for their long-term guardian to arrive.
When naming guardians, you should develop a plan for how you want your kids to be raised in your absence. While you will not have 100% say in their future, you can outline your parenting style and what’s important to you. It is also critical to communicate your wishes with your guardian to make sure they understand. You will want to look at:
- Discipline Styles
- Educational Choices
- Financial Realities
- Healthcare Choices
- Religious Preferences
You can use your estate plan to make sure your assets benefit your children now and in the future. Legal tools such as living trusts can be used to protect your child’s assets (and avoid a court supervised guardianship of the estate), while ensuring money is safely available to fund your child’s upbringing and education.
An experienced estate lawyer can help you understand your options and how to structure your assets to best support your child(ren) if you can’t be there to raise them. If you need help getting started, please contact our Newport Beach Guardianship lawyers at (949) 260-1400 to schedule a consultation.