Guardians For Your Children
By Matthew A. Ferri, Esq. When it comes to our children, we all plan for their future. We consider school districts when buying a house, find activities that fit their interests, sacrifice weekends to take them to practice or events, save money for college and try to instill in them different skills and values that will help in life. In all that planning, it is crucial to also include your wishes if something happens to you. Perhaps nothing is more important when planning your children’s future than selecting guardians for you minor children.
Choosing A Guardian
Choosing someone to be guardian can be a difficult decision. You want to make sure that person is willing and able. Never name someone as a guardian in your estate plan without first discussing it with them. You may also want to choose someone who shares similar beliefs and values, so your children are raised similarly to if you were there. But it is a choice you should put in a written plan before something happens. A verbal agreement between family members is often not enforceable if challenged by another family member. Planning proactively can ease parts of the transition period. By naming someone in advance, your wishes can be followed, and familial disputes can be avoided during an already difficult time.
Guidance For Your Guardians
With planning in advance, you can also leave guidelines for your guardians to follow. Do you want your children to attend a particular school, be raised in a certain faith, have set time to visit with different family members? Do you want them to receive an allowance, are there trips you would encourage? Answering those questions and more can help your guardian follow your wishes, and there can be some peace of mind that your children are being cared for how you would want.
Guardians and Trustees
Without a trust, any inheritance left to your minor children will typically be managed and controlled by their guardian until your children turn eighteen. This can both be a burden on the guardian and give rise to potential conflicts of interest. Not to mention, most of us are not mature enough at eighteen to manage an inheritance. However, with a trust, you have the option to have one or more trustees for each child’s trust share. This allows you to divide the responsibilities of managing your children’s finances from raising your children.
Finally, with proactive planning you can properly set up different types of accounts to provide for your children long-term. Having trust shares set up for your children means you can leave funds behind for their care, while also limiting future access to it as you see fit. You could give them full control at eighteen over the funds you left behind; or, you could stagger their access and require them to have some training or work with a financial advisor until a particular age, so they gain some fiscal responsibility and are better equipped to care for themselves in the future.
Peace of Mind
It is natural to worry about what would happen to your children if something were to happen to you. Planning for it can be overwhelming and oftentimes confusing. These are not easy questions to answer, but they are in the best interest of your children. Estate planning attorneys can help guide you through the process and cover all possibilities for your minor children to ensure they are protected, no matter what life brings. Completing this process and setting up a plan for your children can provide you with great peace of mind.
About the Author
Matthew A. Ferri, J.D., M.B.A., is the Founder and Principal of Life Focus Planning, a Michigan based estate planning law firm. He is an estate planning attorney with offices in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Shelby Township, Michigan. His expertise includes advanced estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, Veterans benefits, special needs planning, and business planning. During law school, Matt focused his studies on business law while simultaneously earning his MBA. After graduation, Matt started his own firm with the goal of helping individuals and their families develop estate plans that work. He received the rating of AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell: The highest peer rating standard. This rating signifies that a large number of his peers rank him at the highest level of professional excellence for his legal knowledge.