There are many decisions that parents must make when creating and maintaining their estate plan. If you have children, many of these decisions will involve them. Decisions that parents make include things such as: whether they treat their children equally; whether children can have immediate access to their inheritance or whether the children’s inheritance should remain in a trust for them; and which children should be listed on the powers of attorney and health care documents to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to make your own decisions.
When your children are minors
There are three critical things to consider as it relates to your estate plan:
- Consider who you want to designate as the legal guardian for your minor children in the event you pass away before the children reach the age of majority.
- You will want to select the best trustee for your young children to handle any inheritance you leave for them while they are young.
- Consider when is the best time for your young children to receive their inheritance in the future.
You could leave it to them at certain ages or in monthly payments, or you could give your trustee the discretion to determine when your children can handle their inheritance.
When your children are young adults
You have a few things to consider when developing your estate plan. First, think about whether your young adult children are mature enough to handle an inheritance that was put directly into their name or whether it should be managed in a trust for them so that they receive it at a later date. Also, consider whether you want your young adult children to serve in your advocate roles of executor, power of attorney agent, and the persons who will make your health care decisions when you can’t.
When your children are responsible adults
Suppose your children are established and responsible adults, contributing to the workforce and society. In that case, you may want to consider setting up your estate plan to enable your children to have the convenience of settling your estate without the burdens of your state’s court-controlled probate process. Consider whether it is best to name one of your adult children to serve as your sole executor, sole trustee, or sole agent on your power of attorney, or whether it is more appropriate to appoint more than one of your children to fill these roles. And if you select more than one of your children to fill these roles, make the appropriate decision regarding whether those children must work jointly in making decisions for you or your estate or whether any of them individually can make the proper decisions.
To Sum It Up
One of the final gifts you give your children will revolve around the estate plan you established for them. When creating and maintaining your estate plan, consider how your designations will affect your children’s long-term wellbeing. Consider having meaningful conversations with your children now, and explain why you are making the decisions you are making. We have seen that when children know your “why,” they are more likely to accept your choices. This will enable your survivors to support you and support each other as assets and values transfer from generation to generation.