Parents experience indescribable and immeasurable joy as their children grow. They shudder at the thought of life without their kids – or of their children’s life without them. No wonder, then, that only 36% of parents with minor children have written a last will and testament. In the absence of that legal document, though, a minor child could confront emotional and financial uncertainty.
Intestacy means only the law matters
When one dies without a will, or intestate, state law determines much of a child’s future. Illinois, for example, distributes intestate assets per stirpes, which roughly means equally. Importantly, the number and type of other surviving kin will dictate what a child, or children, receives.
Naturally, young parents also could assume a family member will care for their children – but without a will, the courts will play an active role in that determination. A guardian will assume legal custody of the child should unforeseen events in either the parents’ or the presumed caretaker’s lives occur. In Illinois, guardianship and its cousin conservatorship require court approval.
Wills and trusts place power in the parents’ hands
Children become adults, so a well-planned estate would include provisions to address their new legal status and the corresponding responsibilities. Trusts can accomplish objective.
Testamentary trusts or a custodial account under the Uniform Gift to Minors Act can provide for college education; a living trust will distribute assets or convey property as you intend upon your death. A special needs trust provides the beneficiary with both long-term financial protection and eligibility for means-tested benefits.
No parent should drown in worry daily about life for their children in the future. Amidst the joy and laughter, however, young parents are encouraged to devote time to consider creating a last will and testament. The document and its provisions will actuate legally the parents’ intent regarding their assets and children’s health and welfare. An experienced estate planning attorney can help create these documents and update them as needed.