When it comes to estate planning, many people avoid the idea of thinking that their assets are not adequate which needs to be protected. This thought is quite common among young couples who currently want to amass money and will plan their estate later. However, while doing so, they fail to establish the estate plan and hence fail to protect their children’s future. Hence, it becomes the duty of all the parents that whatever be their assets, plenty or not, they must plan their estate to secure their children’s future which apart from normal assets transfer includes the nomination of a guardian.
The New York inheritance law forbids a minor child (Below 18) from directly inheriting and taking control over money and property. If a child is minor when he/she inherits money left as per a last will and testament, then the child is not capable of legally assuming the ownership. If there wouldn’t be any plan to decide how the money and property will be appropriately managed on the child’s behalf, the court holds the authority to appoint a guardian to do so.
Estate Planning for Minors-
The guardian is responsible to take care of the child along with the assets up to the time when the child reaches adulthood i.e. attains the age of 18. Keeping in mind to spend the wealth in the interest of the child, the guardian is required to keep the court updated on regular basis of when, where and how the assets are being spent. When the child reaches the age of 18, the inheritance is acquired by the child, however, if the assets are adequate one then it becomes difficult for the 18-year-old to manage it responsibly.
Below are some points to be taken care of while planning your estate considering minor children:
1. Appoint a guardian: In New York, it is mandatory to nominate a guardian in a will even if your estate planning is a living trust based. However, if there is not any guardian mentioned in the will, then the court will appoint one to raise your children. The court can’t decide the best-suited guardian from a few court hearings for your children as that would appear to be in your children’s interest and hence you need to ensure doing it.
The process of the nomination of a guardian in a will is very difficult as various aspects are to be taken care of while doing so which includes:
- Guardian should be of such an age that he/she can take responsibility while simultaneously being in good health until the children become adult to meet their physical demands.
- His/her willingness to take the responsibility.
- His/her existing bond/relationship and comfort level with your children.
- Person’s temperament so that you are assured that he/she would be patient enough with your children to meet their emotional demands.
- If his/her religious beliefs are similar to yours or not. If not, then will they instil your religious beliefs in your children.
- He/she must reside nearby you and is not migrating in the future until your child reaches adulthood.
- His/her existing family and living situation and you are assured that he/she will maintain relationships with both sides of the family.
It is always advised to keep one or more alternate guardians so that in case if any of the two is unable to act as guardian at that time, you have the other available for your children’s protection. Also, you should revaluate your nominees for guardian at an interval of 2-3 years considering the life changing events taking place in the person’s life like death, disability, child birth, divorce etc. However, the court holds the ultimate power to approve the guardian for your children, it would consider your nominee first and if they are unfit due to any reason, the court is going to appoint one for them.
2. Buy life insurance: Raising children is very expensive, thus you need to plan everything so that you never run out of funds. If either of the parents dies, life insurance ensures that the other never run out of funds while providing for the surviving children. And in case both the parents die, life insurance can be used to raise the child or to fund the cost of a college education. You must opt for such insurance that is affordable and provides long term coverage so that your child will be provided with funds until he/she reaches adulthood and become financially independent. However, ensure that your beneficiary must be updated according to your wish.
3. Set up a Trust: Another way is to create a trust which should be designed to manage and protect the inheritance of your children until they reach adulthood. Through the trust, you can decide what sum of money your children will get according to the children’s age or a certain milestone achievement in children’s life like going to college, getting married, buying a house, etc., the age when they will inherit their assets and also a guideline of how they can expand the money. Through the trust you can assign their educational funds, prohibit the spendthrift habit of the children, and also designate a trustee to ensure financial management. The trustee can be same or different from the nominated guardian in your estate plan.
Trusts are recommended as it assures you that you have a greater control on your children’s future. Also, you can assign expenses of your spouse so that if he/she remarries or isn’t smart enough with expenditure, your children will be protected. If in case, your child is a special one then you can also outline how to assign funds for the child as the child may need care even after being adult.
Children are your biggest assets and their future is totally in your hand. Though you don’t want to leave them, however, no one knows what the time brings in for you and your children. Hence, we would advise you to go for estate planning for the future of your children.