The Livens Law Firm

Estate planning allows targeted action regarding children

One important benefit of estate planning in Texas concerns the treatment of minor children. By proper estate planning, people can say who will take care of their children if the need should arise, and they can also appoint a trustee for the money and assets left for the children. If this is not done prior to death by will or even in life through living trusts, the court may appoint a guardian to exercise custody over minor children and a guardian or conservator to take control of the children’s money.

If a person does not provide for the desired appointments to take care of the children’s needs, going through court proceedings to have persons appointed can be long and expensive, especially if disputes or conflicts arise. Indeed, the court does not always appoint someone whom the disabled person, the decedent or the family would approve. A court appointee is often a stranger who has no background in understanding the decedent’s life or circumstances. A court appointee does not always turn out to be an entirely helpful influence in the process.

A court-appointed guardian or conservator may ask the court for stringent procedures that will also increase the cost of administering the funds for the children. Such unnecessary activities lessen the amount available for distribution. In a few instances, the appointed guardian may even attempt to seize control of funds or to direct that the children be placed in alternative living arrangements.

Furthermore, the maker of the will or separate living trust has the benefit of stating in the estate planning documents at what ages the children will get distributions of the principal of the funds. This could be in one lump sum or in two or three or more distributions, at different ages. If that planning is not in place, the corpus of the funds could be distributed to the child when he or she reaches 18, which may not be a mature enough age for some people. Whether in Texas or elsewhere, therefore, estate planning has an important function when any minor children or grandchildren are involved.

Source: Moapa Valley Progress, "Estate Planning with Young Children", Jeffrey J. McKenna, July 16, 2014

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