Most married couples who prepare their estate plans typically leave everything they have to their surviving spouse. If the couple has minor children, they rely on the survivor to provide and care for their young ones. Although it’s not easy, planning for the possibility of both parents passing away simultaneously, or one shortly after the other, is a very important component of planning, particularly when the couple has minor children.
Whether you have minor children or grandchildren, the financial aspects and planning considerations are fundamentally the same. Here in New York, children under 18 cannot manage their own inheritance. In the best scenarios, parents or grandparents choose the person who will be responsible to take charge in the event parents are not able to. Once the choices are made, those names need to be memorialized in a legal document, which could be a will or trust.
There are two main questions to consider when designating these individuals. Who will be responsible for money management for the minor children? In addition, who will take care of their physical well-being? You can choose the same individual(s) for each of these roles, or different ones, depending on the strengths, attributes and resources of those designated.
Failing to prepare a plan in advance, and not naming your choice of responsible individuals, will inevitably result in a long, drawn-out, costly, unpleasant, and public court proceeding, otherwise known as probate. If this happens you lose control, and a judge, knowing nothing about you and your family, will make the decision as to who should be in charge. This may result in someone whom you would never want to serve in that role, or the court could even appoint a total stranger.
Also, if your child or grandchild happens to be a young adult, 18 years of age or a few years older, they may receive a windfall as an inheritance, which could dissipate very quickly due to irresponsible spending activities or unseemly individuals who may be able to persuade your young ones to spend their money in ways that are not in their best interest.
With a trust in your estate plan you can protect your loved ones by leaving your own instructions behind, specifically directing how their inheritance can be spent, and at what age. You can make your specific directions more or less restrictive and flexible, depending on the age and maturity of your youngsters, and you can easily avoid the risks associated with children receiving inheritances.