Often on this blog, we say that estate planning is important, regardless of one’s age. However, one group has an acute need to plan as soon as possible: parents.
Can I just put it off?
If you have children, no. Think about it this way, if you pass away before having kids, the people who will deal with your loss will be adults. While dying without an estate plan can cause a massive headache for those you leave behind, adults can probably work through it. No one will lose their autonomy or become wards of the state of Texas. But if you and your spouse pass without estate plan, your children may spend some time in the foster system.
How do I make sure my kids do not enter the foster system?
You need to have an estate plan that includes guardianship designations. A guardian steps into your shoes as the parent, if you pass or become incapacitated. This ensures that if your kids lose you and your spouse, they still have people to take care for them. Without this designation, a randomly assigned family law judge will decide the fate of your children.
Who should be our kid’s guardian?
Of course, this is a question that only you and your spouse can answer. Whom do you trust? Who shares your beliefs? Choosing guardians can be complicated, but these are conversations and designations that should be made now.
A guardianship designation should never come as a surprise to the guardian you selected. You should talk to them now. Let them know why you trust them, and make sure they agree. But, remember, you cannot force anyone to become a guardian, so make sure you have back-up guardians built into your Dallas/Fort Worth estate plan.
What about the costs?
If there is one thing that all parents can agree on, it is that kids are expensive. A guardian may not want to be a guardian because of this financial fear. This is why you should also build in a way for them to care for your children as well. Generally, this is done through some kind of Texas trust instrument that is in existence for the benefits of your child or children.