How to Protect Your Minor Children If Something Happens To You

Parents in Maryland rely on a lot of outside help when it comes to raising their children.  From family members to school systems to friends who pass on advice and hand-me-downs, it really does take a village to raise a child.  When it comes to estate planning, however, it is up to you to determine what is best for your minor children.

As an estate planning attorney, I recommend that all parents who have children under 18 make planning a priority.  No one wants to consider the idea that they will not be able to raise their kids, but the unforeseen does happen.  By putting a plan into place while you are young and healthy, you can help determine your children’s future, even if you aren’t able to play the role in it that you had hoped.

For example, if you were to die or somehow become incapacitated, who would you choose to care for your child or children?  In many cases, the surviving parent is the obvious choice.  But, considering the fact that the family will be going through a particularly difficult time and that the parental responsibilities will now fall to one person, it may be beneficial to go a step further.  To do this, more families are choosing to create an estate plan that provides for more financial support of both the children and the spouse.  In doing so, that caregiver can be relieved of some of the burden of working and raising the children.

The children may also benefit from psychological counseling.  As a part of the estate plan, some parents set up a strategy for providing therapy for the kids as they deal with the loss of a parent.  This can also be provided for the surviving spouse.

In cases where both parents are killed or where one parent is already absent from the child’s life, setting up a guardianship is a must.  This allows you to determine who in your “village” will be responsible for the continued upbringing of your children.  Your estate plan may offer financial support to this person as well as trusts that the children can access when they reach a certain age.  That said, it is acceptable to place a different person in charge of financial responsibilities.  An estate planning attorney will walk through the options with you in order to find a solution that best fits your situation.

When it comes to finances, it is also a good idea to consider what kinds of restrictions you might want to place on your children’s access to inheritance.  Some parents make access contingent upon certain goals such as age, education, and behavior.  Simply allowing access to a trust when a child reaches 18 may not always be the best approach due to inexperience and pressure from others.

Again, an estate planning attorney is well versed in the options available to parents who wish to plan for their minor children.  Make sure you choose someone who can ensure that your estate plan is legal and meets the criteria of the local courts.

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About Nicole K. White

After losing a close relative, Nicole witnessed the devastation, enormous expense and chaos caused by not having a simple estate plan. It is Nicole’s mission to educate parents, especially single parents, about protecting themselves, their families, minor children, and assets with comprehensive Estate Planning.

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