Estate planning is essential for people of all ages, but estate planning for minor children is vital. Busy parents of young children may put off creating an estate plan, especially if they still need to accumulate significant assets. When minor children are involved, an estate plan is a crucial part of caring for minor children in the event of a tragedy in which one or both parents die unexpectedly.
There are important considerations parents of young children should keep in mind when drafting a will or trust. If you need to create an estate plan to protect your minor children, starting as soon as possible is best. Contact the skilled Pittsburgh estate planning attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule a free case evaluation.
What Should Be Included in Your Estate Plan
An estate plan sounds formal and intimidating, but it can be quite simple, especially if you are a young parent and don’t have complex assets. Creating an estate plan involves drafting and signing legal documents that will help you ensure that your assets are managed or handled according to your wishes when you can no longer do so. An estate plan should include directions regarding what will happen to your assets, including your home, bank accounts, and other valuable property, at your death. An estate plan should also include powers of attorney in which you appoint an agent to make medical and financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated.
The Goals of Estate Planning As a Parent of Minor Children
The goals of estate planning are different depending on each person’s situation in life. For example, the goals of estate planning for parents of young children may look different than those of adults heading into retirement. For young parents, the goal of estate planning is to ensure that their children will be financially taken care of if they are no longer here. Your estate needs to change if you have children. Even if you’ve already created an estate plan before having children, you should speak to an attorney to update your estate plan. Another important goal is selecting a guardian for your children.
Do I Need to Create an Estate Plan for Minor Children?
Yes, every person age 18 or older should have a last will and testament, at the minimum. If you are a parent, you should have an estate plan that appoints a guardian and states how you would like to protect your assets on behalf of your minor children. Although many parents don’t pass away until their children are adults, tragic accidents happen when one or both parents die, leaving minor children behind. Creating an estate plan can protect your children in case an unfortunate accident happens.
Minor children are under the age of 18, and under Pennsylvania law, they are not legally able to make certain decisions about legal contracts and documents. They can’t make decisions regarding bank accounts, real estate, other assets, and inheritance matters. Taking time to create an estate plan and appoint a guardian can help your children financially, mentally, and emotionally after you are gone. As a parent, you can ensure that they are protected and able to meet all of their needs by creating an estate plan.
Naming a Guardian for Your Child or Children
Naming a guardian who will care for your children if you die unexpectedly is one of the most important aspects of estate planning for minor children. When you name a guardian in your will, you will provide the best evidence as to who you’d like to make decisions on behalf of your children. Depending on your situation, deciding who you should name as a guardian could be difficult. You should consider the guardian’s religious beliefs, lifestyle, and proximity to your home. You should also consider the guardian’s financial situation and whether they can manage the burdens of parenting.
If you and your spouse or co-parent have separate wills, you should name the same guardian to avoid confusion if you both pass away simultaneously. Discussing the guardianship with your preferred guardian is essential because you can verify that he or she will be willing to care for your child or children should a tragedy occur. If you do not appoint a guardian in your will, the court will appoint one for you, and it may not be the person you would have chosen.
Transferring Your Estate to Your Child or Children
When parents have no estate plan in place, the child or children will inherit their share of the parent’s estate upon the death of both parents under Pennsylvania law. The minor child or minors would have access to the funds by requesting distributions from the guardian. Additionally, the guardian would need court approval to spend principal assets from the estate. When the minor turns 18, the assets remaining in the estate are distributed to the child, even if the child cannot manage the assets in the estate.
Parents can create a minor’s trust to pass the assets to their child or children if they pass away. Parents can create a minor’s trust as a testamentary trust written in their will. Additionally, parents can name one or more trustees responsible for investing, managing, and distributing the assets to the child according to the terms of the trust.
Parents can direct the terms of the trust and allow distributions for the child’s education, health, maintenance, and support. You may want your child to access portions of the trust assets when they turn 25, 30, and 35. Parents can also create a third-party funding special needs trust. Doing so can help your child remain eligible for public benefits.
Discuss Your Estate Plan for Minor Children with an Experienced Attorney
Taking care of your children is the biggest priority in your life, and a significant amount of thought goes into making sure your children will be well cared for if you pass away unexpectedly. Whether you’re at the beginning of the estate planning process or want to amend your current estate plan to protect your minor children, we are here to help. Contact the Pittsburgh estate planning Attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to schedule your free case evaluation.