Sometimes young adults do not think they need to do estate planning. A common mindset is “I’m in good health and I’m young, so why do I need to do any estate planning?” For those persons with minor children (who are under age 18), this is a very dangerous and uninformed outlook. If both parents die leaving minor children, and if the parents have left no legally valid appointment of a guardian, then the state decides who will become the legal guardian of the minor children. This means that a judge who knows nothing about the parents, the children, or the family, determines who will care for and raise the minor children. If the parents take no action in advance, then they will have no say in the outcome.
Every parent should have a Last Will and Testament in which he or she specifically names the person the parent wishes to appoint as guardian of the minor children. In fact, it is advisable to name multiple persons (in order of preference) so that if one person cannot or will not serve, there will be back-up persons appointed. When it comes to who will raise their children if parents are gone, parents should never leave the decision to chance.
Designating a guardian will also allow the person designated to act as the temporary guardian until the court decides on the permanent appointment. Imagine if parents died suddenly in an auto accident. It may take some time for a court to determine a permanent guardian. However, if the parents have named a guardian in their Will, that person will likely be the person to take immediate custody of the children rather than the children ending up in the foster care system.
When we ask most parents what is most important in their lives, most parents will say “our children.” If that is the case, shouldn’t steps be taken to protect those most-precious gifts?