What Happens to Your Young Children after You Pass Away?
One reason that people decide to create an estate plan is they want to ensure that their family will be taken care of. Many parents want to include provisions in their estate plan about how their children are to be provided for. The following are some methods that you can use in your estate plan to make sure that your children are taken care of and raised according to your wishes if you are unable to care for them yourself.
Minors Cannot Own Property
The first thing to understand about providing for minor children is that they are not legally able to inherit and own property until they have reached the age of majority. In Florida, the age of majority is 18 years old. If you leave your house to your children and they are not 18, the court will appoint someone to protect your children’s interest in the property. This individual is called a guardian. The guardian of the property is responsible for ensuring that the interests of the minor are maintained. For example, if there is real property devised to a minor by a will, the guardian will make sure that there is no sale of the property that would be detrimental to the minor.
Some accounts or policies allow the holder to name a beneficiary. Examples of these accounts are life insurance policies or retirement accounts. When a policy or account transfers at the death of the holder, a minor beneficiary is not able to receive the distribution. The court will often have the funds deposited into a protected account. The appointed guardian is only able to access the account when the court issues an order to distribute the funds on behalf of the minor. For example, if the minor was in need of funds for support such as new clothing or medical care, the court may allow access to a specific amount to be used for that particular purpose.
Naming Guardians in Your Will
Your will is a way that you can communicate your wishes after you pass away. When you designate individuals that you wish to serve as guardians for your children, it aids the court in determining who should be responsible for taking care of your children. There are two types of guardians, one for the property and one who is responsible for taking care of and raising your children.
When considering who to appoint as a guardian for your children, it is important to think about who would be willing and able to function as the guardian. It is not a requirement to discuss this with the individual you select, but it may be useful to convey your wishes and ensure that they are willing to step into the role if it was necessary. It is also recommended that you update your designation of a guardian for your children when circumstances change. If your relationship with your brother changes and you would not want him to be the guardian of your children, you will need to update your designation to reflect that. If your mom would no longer be able to take care of your children if they needed a guardian, you will want to update the designation so that your wishes may be carried out.
Another estate planning tool to ensure your children are taken care of according to your wishes is a trust. In a trust, you are able to include information about monetary support for your children’s education, health, maintenance, and support. The trust can be created so that the trust money is distributed to the guardians while the children are in their care so that they can sufficiently provide for the children’s needs.
By incorporating a trust into your plans, you can also choose how the funds not used in the support of your children are distributed to your children. You can either give your children the assets outright when they reach a certain age or you can break up the distribution over time. For example, one-half when they turn 30 and one-half when they turn 45. One benefit of using a trust to provide for your children is that you can be specific about how the assets are used to provide for or given to your children.
When you are creating an estate plan and you have minor children, be sure to consult with your attorney about the best methods of providing for your children if something happens to you. By implementing a plan for the care of your children, these provisions can help bring peace of mind. If you have any further questions about guardians or estate planning provisions for your minor children, we are always willing to help answer your questions. Contact us today.