By Robert E. Fravel, Esq.
Most of us think of a will as simply “a legal document that spells out who gets my property when I die”. And while that is true, a will can also be a tool that determines what happens to your minor children and their finances if both parents die before the children come of age. This is not a topic that is comfortable to think about, but for parents, it is necessary.
- Naming a Guardian
A guardian is the person who will serve in the parental role in the event that you die before your children reach the age of majority. This is not something you want to leave to the courts. The courts will do their due diligence and attempt to make a decision based on the best interests of the child, but it is impossible for a judge to understand the in’s and out’s of your friendships and family relationships, which would likely be the basis for whom you name as a guardian. In order to avoid this risk, use your will to put this decision in writing.
- Naming someone to handle your child’s inheritance
Children under the age of 18 cannot manage their inheritance money. There must be someone appointed or named in the will to do this on their behalf until they come of age. There are a number of ways to do this, the two most common are:
- You can use your will to set up a testamentary trust, which will then allow you to set the terms on how and when they will receive the money (ex.” My daughter shall receive $20,000.00 when she turns 25, and the remainder when she turns 30”). In this testamentary trust you will name a trustee or trustees to handle and manage the money until the time at which the document directs the funds to be distributed.
- You can name a Custodian under the PA Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Under this approach, the Custodian cannot turn over the funds until the child turns 21, and in some circumstances, may be allowed to maintain control over the funds until the child turns 25.
If you have minor children and you do not have a will, or you do not have a will that addresses who will provide for your minor children in the event of your death, make an appointment to contact an experienced estate planning attorney in your area.