Estate Planning for Parents of Young Children (Part 1)
June 8, 2015 - Posted by: admin - In category:
Parents of young children often neglect to implement some very basic, but vitally important, estate planning steps for the protection of their children.
As estate planning attorneys, we tend to do a fairly descent job in getting our message out to middle aged and elderly adults in the community. I believe this to be consistent throughout Utah and in other states and communities. But what I also believe to be a constant theme in Utah and other areas of the country is the fact that we are not very successful, by and large, in getting our message out to younger adults, particularly to parents of young children. This fact is something that I think about often (and even loose sleep over), as a fellow parent of young children. Since I am currently part of this demographic, I have a chance to associate with others in a similar situation and I am painfully aware that most of my friends and associates who are also parents of young children have done little or no estate planning and therefore they are subjecting their young children to the very real chance that should the unthinkable happen, such young children will be left to the care and mercies of people not designated (and perhaps not desired) by the parents. Just as troubling is the reality that there are a few simple steps that such parents of young children could take which would alleviate much of the risks they current live with and to which they are currently subjecting their children.
Perhaps you are thinking that such “worst case scenario” planning is not really such a big deal because the chances of something tragic happening to one or both parents is such a remote possibility that protecting against such unforeseen events is a low priority. To that I would say that although unlikely, there have been several such tragic events in recent days in our community. Likewise, such logic of “it won’t happen to me” could prevent you and me from doing a basic thing as putting on our seat-belt or buying good car insurance–reasoning that the chances of getting in an accident are remote at best. However, in our more sensible moments, we are quick to realize that wearing a seat-belt and having car insurance are very wise practices. By the same token, parents of young children should be wise enough to understand that implementing a few basic measures to protect their children against unlikely and unforeseen (and unthinkable) events is wise and really a “no duh” practice.
One of the very first things that every parent should do is to retain an estate planning attorney draft a basic Will for them. Each parent will need to have their own Will. A Will can serve many important functions and in this context, one important reason for the Will is to designate who should be appointed guardian of minor children in the event that both parents have died. Please note that if there is an accident where only one parent dies but the other parent remains, then the surviving parent retains all legal rights as parent and there is normally no need to appoint a guardian for minor children. So again, it is an unlikely situation where your Will would be needed to assist in the appointment of a guardian for your children.
On the other hand, though remote, is there ANYTHING that is MORE IMPORTANT than being able to determine who would take care of your children if neither parent were around to do so?
This is something that gets me fired up, to be frank. We spend so much of our time and efforts as estate planning attorneys putting together legal structures and utilizing proper methods to protect assets and provide for the timely and orderly distribution of the same, according to the detailed specifications of the asset owners. At the same time, we find that almost all parents of young children have neglected to obtain a valid Will and therefore have neglected to make provisions for who would take care of their children if they were unable to do so. In this regard, it seems that we are, as a society, really missing the boat when it comes to protecting what matters most.
We will discuss more principles of estate planning for young children in future posts.