To Protect Minor Children You Must Have A Will

by loren on August 5, 2013

Estate Planning In San Francisco to Protect Your Children

For families, the arrival of the first child is often the first time couples begin to think about estate planning.  Besides a revocable trust, which is necessary to avoid probate in California if your estate is over $150,000.00, a Will is just as important.  If a tragic accident were to occur and both parents died without Wills, the probate court would be left with the difficult decision of choosing a guardian to care for your surviving children.

Each parent must have their own Will.  In their Will, each parent names the Guardian of the Person and the Guardian of the Estate to handle their affairs if both parents were to die.

Guardian of the person:
The Guardian of the Person is the person you are naming to have physical custody of your children.  Most parents want to name a person whom they believe would raise their children with the parents’ values. The Will should list second and third choices for Guardian of the Person, in case named persons are unavailable or no longer living.  Before naming a Guardian of the Person in your Will, such nominee should be asked if they are up for this big responsibility, regardless of how unlikely they will be called on to step into this role.  Depending on the age of your children and your parents, I recommend not naming your parents as the first choice of Guardian of the Person, because they may not live long enough or still have the stamina to raise your young children to adulthood. If at some point a first-choice Guardian of the Person has to step down, I include a provision in the Will that allows the minor child or children to voice their preference for either the second or third nominee named in the Will.  Depending on the age and maturity of the child, the child’s preferences should be considered before placing the child with a successor Guardian of the Person.

Guardian of the estate:
Should the person you name as the Guardian of the Person be automatically named as the Guardian of the Estate? Not necessarily. The Guardian of the Estate has the responsibility of managing your money and other assets you leave for your children.   A good caring and nurturing Guardian of the Person may not have the skills of a good money manager.  Depending on your situation, it may be best to name a different person to act as the Guardian of the Estate. Further, naming one person as Guardian of the Person and another as Guardian of the Estate, serves as a check and balance in helping to protect your assets from being misappropriated as would be possible if only one person were to hold both roles.

Estate planning in San Francisco and surrounding areas is not only for people with large estates.  Regardless of how many assets you own, everyone with children needs a Will to protect their children and avoid ever having a probate judge decide who will care for your children should you both pass.

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