Estate Planning for Minor Children

Minor children require special care and attention in an estate plan.  For many people, their children are the only reason that they prepare a will or trust.

 

The first goal of estate planning for children is to nominate a "guardian".  A guardian is a person designated by the parents to care for their children on a day-to-day basis.  Parents may appoint a guardian in a last will and testament, or in any other form of writing.  We generally use both a last will and testament and a Parental Appointment of Guardian to appoint a guardian.  The last will and testament can be used if both parents are deceased, and the Parental Appointment of Guardian can be filed in probate court if the parents are still alive, but incapacitated.   

 

The second goal is to create a trust, and appoint a "trustee" to manage and distribute your property for the children's care and support.  

 

The guardian and trustee may be the same person, or two different persons.  If a different trustee and guardian are appointed, then they must work together to protect the children. 

 

A trust is an important element of an estate plan for children.  As with any trust, the instructions for management and distribution of trust property are left to the discretion of parents or guardians who create the trust.  

 

At a minimum, a trust for minor children should contain the following instructions:

  • Distribution of trust income
  • Distribution of trust principal
  • Use of trust income and principal for children's benefit
  • Appointment of a trustee and successor trustee
  • Age at which trust assets should be distributed
  • Whether to create a single trust, or separate trusts for each child
  • How to handle property distributed to a minor
  • How to distribute property if a child dies before the parents
  • How to distribute property if a child dies after the parents
  • Any other instructions specified by the parents or guardians

 

Once the trust is created, it must also be "funded".  Funding a trust is the process of adding property to it.  A trust without any property is not useful because the trustee will not have any assets to manage.  Therefore, funding a trust is just as important as creating it.   Any assets that the parents want the trustee to manage for their children must be funded to the trust.  We provide specific Instructions to Fund a Children's Support Trust.

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