If you have young children (i.e. children under the age of 18), you need to carefully plan your estate to protect and provide for your children. You’ll need the basic estate planning documents to protect yourself as well, with additional documents and consideration for your children.
In your will, you name guardians to raise your children if you die. Name back-up guardians as well in case your primary guardians are unable or unwilling to serve when needed. Be sure to ask permission before naming them; it’s a huge responsibility and you want your children to be wanted.
Don’t distribute assets to your minor children in a simple will. Children are unable to inherit and if you try, the court will intervene and take over. In addition, the children will get their full inheritance when they turn 18, which may not be a good thing.
Instead, provide individual lifetime trust shares for your children in a revocable living trust. These assets will be available for their health, education, and maintenance but can’t be taken by future creditors or divorcing spouses. Your children can serve as co-trustees as they get older and learn about managing money, earning a living, and living within their means, with progressive levels of trustee responsibility.
Execute a first responder authorization which appoints trusted friends and neighbors to stay with your children in an emergency, until your named guardians arrive.
Because your will is only effective if you’re dead, you also need to appoint stand-by guardians in a separate document. This guardianship authorization is effective if you are incapacitated, but alive, and unable to care for your children.
If you have young children, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to best ensure that their needs are met and they are protected.