Orange County Estate Planning for Children
Having a Will Alone Simply Does Not Ensure the Care of Your Kids If the Unthinkable Happens to You! If you are a parent of young children, you need an estate plan to ensure that they will always be taken care of by the right people, in the way you want, no matter what happens. If you fail to put a plan in place, however, someone else will make these decisions for you—and this rarely works out well.
At Morgan Law Group, one of our areas of greatest expertise is in estate planning for children—whether newborns, young adults, or adults with special needs. Regardless of your unique situation, Morgan Law Group is here to help you ensure that your children’s futures are secure via our Kids Protection Plan, which is a unique service we offer to parents as part of the overall estate planning process.
The Consequences of Failing to Plan for Your Children
Estate planning is necessary to ensure that your children are properly cared for should anything ever happen to you. Unless you have a plan in place that takes the particular needs of your children into account, the court will make important decisions regarding their future—without your input. Therefore, if you want to keep such decisions out of the hands of the court, you must have an estate plan in place that addresses important issues concerning your children. Here are just a few examples of what could happen if you pass away or become incapacitated without an estate plan in place:
- Your children could be placed into the care of strangers while the authorities determine what to do with them. (This applies even if you have a will or living trust in place.) And, although it’s true that this situation would likely only be temporary, take a moment to consider the following question: would you want your children living with strangers— even for a minute? If your answer to this question is “no,” then you must take steps to ensure that this never happens.
- A judge who doesn’t know you or your family will decide who will raise your kids, even if it is the last person you would ever want.
- Your family could get into a long, drawn-out custody fight, or there could be a challenge to the guardians you have designated.
- Up to 5% of the value of your assets could be lost to court costs and other unnecessary fees through the probate process, which is a court process that can tie up your assets for years and deprive your kids of the resources they need to live comfortably.
- When your kids turn 18, they could inherit your assets, no matter how immature they might be. This could result in them wasting assets that they otherwise could use to secure their futures.
Our Kids Protection Plan
Although the things described above are scary, at Morgan Law Group, we have dedicated our life’s work to making sure these things don’t happen! And that’s why we offer a Kids Protection Plan with every estate plan we create for families with young children.
Our Kids Protection Plan establishes the foundation to all the planning we do; it is comprised of several different legal documents that all work together as a coordinated emergency plan, and it is carefully designed to ensure that your children will always remain in the custody of loved ones that you choose. With our Kids Protection Plan, you—not the court—make the important decisions that matter most to you and your family.
How Morgan Law Group Can Help You Protect Your Children
In order to ensure that your children will be cared for should anything ever happen to you, there are several steps you must take. Through Morgan Law Group’s Kids Protection Plan, we will help you take the steps necessary to ensure that your children’s futures are secure. Below are just a few of the steps you should take to ensure that your children are protected, all of which we’ll assist you with as part of our Kids Protection Plan:
Choose the right long-term guardians: As part of our Kids Protection Plan, we’ll help you choose and legally document your selection of long-term guardians for your children. As the name implies, long-term guardians are individuals who will care for your children on a long-term basis should anything ever happen to you. If you fail to select long-term guardians for your kids, the court will do so for you, and this rarely works out well. However, by choosing and legally documenting long-term guardians for your children now, you can rest assured that your children will be cared for in a manner that is consistent with the beliefs and values that you and your family hold dear.
Choose the right short-term guardians: In addition to long-term guardians, you’ll need to select local friends or family members who your kids know and trust to act as short-term guardians. Should anything ever happen to you, the short-term guardians you select will care for and comfort your children until your long-term guardians arrive and take over their care. As with the long-term guardians you select, our attorneys will prepare legal documentation that identifies and alerts your short-term guardians of their responsibilities regarding your children.
Give clear guidance to your caregivers: It’s important that your children’s schools and caregivers have clear instructions on who to contact should anything ever happen to you. Therefore, those who currently have responsibility for caring for your children should have the contact details for your children’s long-term and short-term guardians.
Provide instructions to your children’s long-term guardians: The long-term guardians you select to care for your children must know how to proceed if called upon and where to find your long-term guardianship documents. In addition, you should leave your long-term guardians specific instructions about how you want your children raised.
Exclude anyone you don’t want to care for your children: Although this step is often overlooked, it’s just as important as selecting the right short-term and long-term guardians to care for your kids. If there is someone in your life, such as a friend or family member, who you would never want to raise your children, you should identify this individual in writing. We can assist you with this by preparing a legal document excluding this individual from ever caring for your children.
Provide financial resources: Finally, you must leave behind enough financial resources to ensure that whoever is raising your children will have the financial means necessary to care for them. A great way to make sure that your children and their caregivers have the resources they need is to work with a trusted financial advisor to determine the amount of savings or insurance necessary to support your family in your absence. If you don’t already have a financial advisor, our experienced estate planning lawyers can refer you to a trusted financial professional.
If you want to ensure that your children will always be in good hands, please contact Morgan Law Group today to begin the estate planning process. When you come to us for assistance, our experienced and knowledgeable Orange County estate planning attorneys will work with you to create a comprehensive plan that takes the unique needs of you and your children into account. Through our unique Kids Protection Plan, you can rest assured that your children will always be protected and cared for. Remember, when it comes to your children, you can never be too prepared.
Frequently Asked Estate Planning for Children Questions
Can I Do Estate Planning for My Children Myself?
Although attempting to plan for your child’s future without the help of an estate planning lawyer is rarely a good idea, there are two circumstances under which you can possibly consider estate planning for your children all by yourself:(1) You are okay with your children controlling everything you own as soon as they turn 18; and (2) Your assets are minimal enough that they would not go through the probate process. In California, if you don’t own real property and have less than $166,250,000 of assets, your estate will not have to go through the probate process in the event of your death. In this situation, you may be able to get by with a simple form will, health care directive, and power of attorney.
However, even if the above circumstances apply to your situation, you should still strongly consider working with an attorney. Although it may seem easier and less expensive to use estate planning documents you find online to plan for your children’s futures, unless you work with an experienced estate planning lawyer, there are plenty of opportunities for you to make mistakes. And when it comes to estate planning, even small mistakes can have big consequences.
In fact, in many cases, it may actually be better to do nothing at all than to try to legally plan for your children yourself. The reason for this is simple: if you attempt to plan for the future using generic forms you find online, you could end up costing your children more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.
When it comes to estate planning for children, the bottom line is this: at a minimum, you should schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney before deciding whether to attempt to tackle the process yourself. Regardless of what you decide to do, when you consult with an attorney first, you’ll have the peace of mind that you at least took the time to explore all of your options. After all, when it comes to your kids, you can never be too careful.
Isn’t a Will Enough to Protect My Kids?
Most people know what a last will and testament is. In fact, a will may be the most popular estate planning document. However, in reality, a will is a very small part of a well-drafted estate plan. As we discussed above, many people think that creating a DIY will is all that is necessary to ensure that their children are protected. Unfortunately, the reality is that drafting your own will (or using a form you find online) can actually create far more trouble for your children down the road than if you decided to do nothing at all. If you have never drafted a will before, the odds are that you will make at least a few mistakes—mistakes that can cost your children dearly. Rather than taking this chance, we highly recommend that you contact us to discuss our Kids Protection Plan.
What’s the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
Wills and trusts are both important estate planning tools that can help ensure your children will be protected should anything ever happen to you. A will is a legal document that allows you to accomplish many objectives, including name guardians for your minor children and pass along your assets to them. A trust is a fiduciary relationship in which you give a trustee the right to hold title to property or assets for the benefit of your children. When you create a will, its terms are carried out after your death. A trust, on the other hand, becomes active the day you create it, and it allows for the distribution of assets before death should you so choose. There are many types of trusts, including irrevocable trusts, which can’t be altered after their creation, and living trusts, which you are free to change during your lifetime.
The primary difference between a will and a trust is that a will must go through the probate process. Trusts, on the other hand, are not required to go through probate when you die, and they can’t be contested.
How Often Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan?
Once you have an estate plan in place, you’re ahead of the game compared to most people. However, estate planning is not something you do once and forget about. Rather, as your life changes, so should your estate plan. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to review your estate plan every three to five years or so and make changes accordingly. However, any time you experience a major life change, you should immediately review your estate plan to determine whether changes are necessary. Major life events that can have an impact on your estate plan include:
- Health changes
- Purchasing a home
- Opening or closing a business
- Insurance policy changes
How Do I Choose an Estate Planning Attorney?
When it comes to planning for your children’s futures, you must ensure that you choose the right estate planning attorney. When choosing an attorney, there are several things to consider, including:
- Practice areas: The attorney you choose to help you create an estate plan that protects your children should focus on practice areas related to the various aspects of estate planning. At Morgan Law Group, our Kids Protection Plan is designed specifically for parents with minor children, making us uniquely qualified to handle your estate planning needs.
- Experience: This is critical, because there is a significant difference between an attorney who is straight out of law school and a lawyer with years of experience creating estate plans for parents and their children. The attorney you hire should not only focus on estate planning—she should also have several years of experience helping parents secure their children’s futures. Generally speaking, the more years an estate planning attorney has experience planning for children, the better.
- Cost: Let’s face it: when it comes to choosing a lawyer, cost is important. Therefore, before you hire a lawyer, you need to make sure that you understand how much it’s going to cost. However, this shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when choosing an attorney. Although price is very important, it is simply one piece of the puzzle you must examine.
- Communication: Finally, the attorney you decide to work with should treat you as an active participant in the estate planning process. One way to determine this is to ask during your initial consultation whether your prospective attorney plans to discuss and share estate planning documents with you as they are prepared. Ultimately, estate planning should be a collaborative process between you and your attorney.