As a parent, you'd do anything to protect your children. Having a properly prepared estate plan ensures that your children will be provided for in the event of your death, regardless of their age.
Estate Plans for Parents of Young Children
When you're the parent of young children, appointing a guardian is typically considered the most important role of an estate plan. The person you name as the guardian of your children in your will has the responsibility of stepping in to care for them if you become unable to do so. If necessary, you can appoint different guardians for each child.
To choose a suitable guardian, you should consider:
- Your values and priorities for raising your children
- Your children's relationship with the person you are considering
- Whether the person you're considering can provide a stable environment for your children
- If the person is physically capable of parenting
- How the person feels about being a guardian
Typically, most parents choose a family member who shares similar values and is already close to the children. However, a guardian doesn't necessarily need to be a blood relative. A close friend may be the more appropriate choice in many circumstances.
In addition to naming a physical guardian for your children, you will also need to choose a financial guardian. This may be the same person, but you can choose two different people if you wish to do so. Since children under the age of 18 can't legally inherit money or property, a financial guardian controls the children's assets until they become adults.
To provide for the needs of young children, most financial planners recommend investing in a term life insurance policy. This type of life insurance provides coverage for a set number of years and can replace your earnings if you were to pass away. If you are reasonably healthy, term life insurance is a cost-effective way to provide peace of mind.
Power of attorney documents, including a durable power of attorney for health care and a durable power of attorney for finances, give the individual or individuals you select the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. Financial power of attorney is especially important for parents with young children, since someone needs to be able to pay household expenses if you become incapacitated.
Estate Plans for Parents With Adult Children
When you have adult children, your estate plan should focus on allowing them to inherit assets in a way that best fits their particular circumstances. For example, it's often best for an adult child struggling with an addiction to be left money in a trust instead of inheriting assets outright. A trust can also be useful when an adult child is going through a divorce, since this generally prevents assets from being considered marital property.
Although most individuals choose to divide their assets equally, there may be some circumstances where it is appropriate to provide one child with a different share. For example, you may have an adult daughter who quit her job to be your full-time caretaker or a son who has already borrowed a substantial sum from you to start his own business. A clearly defined estate plan lets you make your wishes known.
Structuring your estate to avoid probate is often beneficial when you have adult children. Probate is a time-consuming process, which can create headaches for adult children who live out of state or must take time away from work or their families to resolve any issues that may arise. Probate is also a public legal process, which could present privacy concerns.
The loss of a parent is difficult at any age, but providing power of attorney documents makes it easier for your children to handle the important decisions that must be made at this time. Power of attorney documents can also reduce conflict among siblings, especially in cases of blended families.
The Value of Professional Estate Planning
No two families are exactly alike, which is why estate plans must be personalized to fit individual needs. Relying on general online tips and DIY guides is extremely risky, especially when the future of your children is at stake.
Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C. offers comprehensive estate planning services for parents who are concerned about protecting the needs of their children. Call today to learn how Renata Landskind, Esq. and Terence J. Ricaforte, Esq. can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your children will be properly provided for no matter what the future holds. Appointments are available in our Brooklyn office and throughout New York City, Staten Island, Queens, and Long Island.