Protecting Your Children with an Estate Plan
(Pictured: "The slaughter of the suitors by Odysseus and Telemachus" by Louis Vincent Palliere, 1812―Odysseus also famously had no estate plan, leaving his wife and son exposed to many dangers.)
Many people think that they do not need an estate plan because they are not wealthy. But, often it is the people with fewer assets that benefit the most from having a plan in place. Indeed, proper planning can preserve for your children the limited assets of your estate.
If you have minor children, you should have a plan in place so that your children are cared for if you are incapacitated or die. Also, you should have a plan in place so that your children do not have to spend any time in the custody of child protective services when your incapacity or death occurs.
For example, you leave your child with a babysitter while you are at work. What happens if you get into a car accident, are unconscious in the hospital, and never come home? Does your babysitter know who to call? Or will your babysitter call the police, when you cannot be reached?
If the police are called and the babysitter does not have legal authority to stay with the children, child protective services will be contacted and take custody of the children until someone with the legal authority to care for the children is found.
Having a plan in place with the proper documents can prevent this from happening.
A Revocable or Living Trust
Putting the assets you do have into a trust can save you thousands of dollars and months of time by avoiding probate. Moreover, a trust enables you to protect your children's inheritance from predators and even their own bad decisions. And it can also protect their inheritance in the event a surviving spouse remarries.
A Revocable Trust also keeps your assets available to your children when you are incapacitated because a successor trustee of your choosing can access those assets.
A Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney enables you to appoint an agent who can access your accounts and pay your bills, if you are incapacitated. This is especially important if you have minor children that need to be cared for while you are incapacitated. Your agent will be able to access your accounts to care for your children while your are incapacitated. A Durable Power of Attorney combined with a Revocable Trust ensures that all of your assets will be available for your children.