For those families with minor children, estate planning should be a top priority. Unfortunately, for many families that is not the case. They are so busy that they do not take time to put plans in place to care for their children if mom and dad are either incapacitated or suffer an untimely death. My wife and I both work and have two young children, so we know all too well how quickly the calendar can fill up. But we also know how important it is to have contingency plans in case of an emergency.
I have found that for my clients who have young children, their overriding concern is who will care for their children if both mom and dad are either incapacitated or pass away. These concerns are what often prompt them to begin the planning process. These parents are seeking the peace of mind that comes from knowing they have provided for their children.
In Texas, if either a husband or wife passes away without naming a guardian, the surviving spouse will continue to provide care for the children. However, if both parents pass away, or are determined to be incapacitated, and they have minor children, someone will have to be named as a guardian for the children. If the parents have not named qualified persons to care for their children, the Court will name someone for them. This is called a guardianship proceeding and the Court will likely name a guardian of the child’s person, and a guardian of the child’s estate.
For most of my young clients with children, they are primarily concerned about naming a person to be guardian of the child’s person. This is the person or persons who will take over the parent’s role of raising the children. It can be hard for the parents to decide who should fill this role because most parents believe that no one will do a good enough job. I tell my clients that there is no one who will raise your children exactly the way you would, but at least there is some comfort in naming a close family member, or in some cases a close friend, and know that your children will be loved and cared for.
There are some things to consider when choosing these back-up parents. Some of these are:
- Do they share your philosophy of parenting?
- Do your children know them well?
- Do the potential guardians have children of their own? If so, how might that impact your children?
- Will the people you name take your children to church and do they share the same faith that you do?
- Will your children be able to remain in the same city and attend the same schools, or will they have to relocate to another area?
- Are the potential guardians in good health?
In addition to choosing who will raise your children in your absence, it is wise planning to make sure your estate plan includes a trust for your children so the assets you pass along to them will be protected and will be used for your children’s well being. I will touch more on this issue in my next post.