As an estate planning attorney, I have the opportunity to speak with many different families in very different stages of their lives. Some are in retirement years and feel that wealth transfer planning is more urgent, working families that have teenage children or children in their twenties, or young families with young children. No matter the stage in life of the families that I speak with, they each have very different and unique estate planning needs and concerns.
As a husband and a father of two children (both under the age of three), I have unique insights that I share with families of young children. First, more than half of the young families that I speak with do not realize they need a will (many haven’t even thought of a trust), and they certainly do not think they need to name a guardian for their children. Second, for the young families that I speak with who do have a will and have named guardians for their children, nearly all of them have not put much thought into the selection of the guardians, and certainly have not named suitable back-up guardians and who should take temporary physical custody of their children. Finally, nearly every young family I speak with have never thought what the named guardians will need to do should they unexpectedly pass away.
Let me share with you the story of John and Jane to illustrate a point. John and Jane did not do any planning whatsoever. They were a young family and felt that estate planning and family wealth transfer planning was for the rich. So, instead of doing something, they did nothing. Tragically, one day, John and Jane were killed in an automobile accident. Jane’s sister got the news first and made the two-hour drive to the hospital. At the hospital, she met with two police officers, who were there with John and Jane’s children. Although Jane’s sister had cared for the two children on several occasions and was willing to take the children home, the police officers informed Jane’s sister that she did not have the correct legal documentation. As such, the two children ended up in foster care, where they remained for a total of two months, when Jane’s sister obtained legal custody by the court in a simple, and uncontested, guardianship proceeding.
If you have a young family with young children, it is imperative that you engage in proper family wealth transfer planning that includes proper children protection planning. Without planning for the unthinkable, something even further unthinkable could happen … your children could end up in foster care, even temporarily, while your family members go through the court process of getting physical and legal custody of your children and their estate.
Make the decisions now, while you can, instead of letting the courts make that decision for you!
If you have questions about family wealth transfer planning and who to name as guardian for your children, then I encourage you to contact our office at (615) 472-2482 for an initial family wealth transfer planning session with one of our attorneys.
In the meantime, feel free to review our other articles, videos, and download our free books and reports. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.
As always, we are here to help.