Most everyone should have a Last Will and Testament. Wills not only allow you (and not the state legislature) to determine how your assets will be distributed after your death, they also can help avoid costly and divisive family squabbles. For families with minor children, however, a will is especially important. There are two fundamental reasons why:
First, a Will is an appropriate place to nominate a guardian for your minor children in the event that both parents pass away. Parents who want to have a say in who will be appointed to raise their children if they are unable need to take affirmative steps to communicate their wishes.
There are several factors parents may want to consider in deciding whom to appoint as guardian:
- Is your guardian completely trustworthy?
- What is your guardian’s current relationship with your children?
- Does your guardian have experience raising children?
- Does your guardian have the time and energy necessary to raise children?
- Are the guardian’s principles and morals in line with your own and what you wish for your children?
Second, in your Will you can set out the terms by which your assets are cared for on behalf of your minor children, specifically by creating a trust.
Minors are not allowed to inherit property in their own name in Tennessee. In the absence of a will, or carefully crafted provisions in a will, courts will appoint a property guardian to hold your child’s inheritance for the child’s benefit.
In a will, parents are able to set out the terms that govern the holding and use of that property by establishing a contingent trust in the event they pass away while their children are still under the age of eighteen. Instead of allowing the law or a court to determine how their assets are used to care for their minor children, parents can customize the terms of a contingent trust to reflect their wishes and values.
Specifically, parents can select:
- The trustee or trustees who will be responsible for holding and spending money on the child’s behalf.
- The kinds of expenses for which the parents’ assets can and can’t be used.
- The age at which children receive the assets free of trust. One common approach includes distributing a portion of the trust to the child at certain intervals – 1/3 at age 25, 1/3 at age 30 and the remainder at age 35, for example. Others prefer to leave the assets in trust throughout the child’s life and perhaps appoint the child as the trustee at a certain age.
As children reach adulthood, such a trust can be helpful in protecting the parents’ assets from the child’s creditors, or from a child’s spouse in the event of a divorce.
Regardless of your approach, wills are essential tools for families to ensure that minor children are protected and cared for according to the parents’ wishes.
Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.