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Why Parents and Expecting Parents Need an Estate Plan

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As a parent, you are responsible for the care, protection, education, and financial support of your minor children. Often times before the child is born, you spend countless hours conducting research and making decisions about every aspect of your child’s life-from finding the perfect outfit to wear from the hospital to funding the child’s education and everything in between. You conduct thorough background investigations on prospective pediatricians, childcare providers, schools, and anyone else who may potentially care for your beloved child.

Before leaving your child with their grandparents, you conduct a thorough sweep of their home to make sure it meets your standard of “child proof”. Once the standards are met, you provide an emergency data card with a map of the quickest route to the hospital and detailed instructions with feeding and nap schedules and your do’s and don’ts of parenting. Why? Because you want to protect your child, right?

In the process of implementing the meticulously drafted instructions, often times parents fail to execute the most important plan necessary to provide for the care, protection, and financial support of their child- an estate plan. Parents fail to plan for the possibility that one day they may no longer be able to conduct the research, sweeps, background investigations, and draft the list of instructions needed to properly care for their beloved child. They fail to make plans for when their child may need it most- should they become ill or die.

Who Will Care for Your Minor Child Should You Become Ill or Die?

Typically, if one parent dies, unless the court finds the surviving parent to be unfit or his/her parental rights have been terminated, the surviving parent will have priority as the guardian of the child. However, if the surviving parent has been determined to be unfit, his/her parental rights have been terminated or if both parents die simultaneously, who cares for the child depends on whether the parents created an estate plan.

Without an estate plan, the court will appoint a guardian to care for your child. Unfortunately, the court appointed guardian may not be the person you would have chosen. In fact, he/she may not have even passed the initial stage of your screening process. The Court has no way of knowing your criteria for choosing a guardian. Therefore, the court’s decision is based on statutory requirements, not your wishes.

Because the minor child typically lives with the guardian, the guardian plays an instrumental role in nurturing the child’s development. The Court appointed guardian may not share your values, religious beliefs, or lifestyle.

In addition to appointing a guardian, the court may appoint a conservator, who may or may not be the same person as the guardian. The conservator will be responsible for managing the child’s inheritance and make payments to the guardian or others to provide for the care and benefit of the child. Often times, third parties such as life insurance companies will refuse to make disbursements to a minor child unless a conservator has been appointed. Depending on whether there are any additional resources, this may pose a challenge in providing financial support for the child until the conservator has been appointed.  The conservator’s responsibilities are governed by statute and are subject to court supervision, which can become complex and costly.

Failing to create an estate plan is like playing Russian roulette with your child’s future. Your failure to plan leaves the care, protection, education, and financial security of your child to the discretion of the court- a court guided by statutory requirements, not your wishes.

Are you going to make the decisions or will you leave it to the court to decide? If you’re interested in protecting your child’s future and your legacy, visit or click hereto schedule a consultation.


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