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By: Allyson T. Schwab

There are many things that parents with minor children worry about each day – diapers, dance lessons, dinner – the list goes on and on. However, one very important thing that many parents fail to consider is estate planning. Although it is not always comfortable to imagine a situation in which you are no longer around to care for your children, planning for the unthinkable will help ensure that your family is taken care of pursuant to your wishes.

The following is a discussion of a few key elements of an estate plan for those with minor children.

Appointment of a Guardian

As part of an estate plan, parents are able to nominate a guardian for the person and the estate of their children in the event that both of parents die while a child is still a minor. A “guardian of the person” is responsible for the children’s health and general welfare, whereas a “guardian of the estate” is in charge of managing the minor’s financial wellbeing. It is common, but not required, for parents to name the same person as the guardian of the estate and the person for their minor children.

Nominating a guardian via a Will or other designation will help ensure that the person of your choosing will be the one to step into your stead should anything happen to you and your spouse.  While the court will ultimately appoint the guardian, it will give great deference to the individual nominated by the parent(s). In the absence of a specific designation by the parent(s), it is up to the court to determine who will be named as guardian of your children. While this may not always result in a negative outcome, most parents would likely agree that they should be the ones to make the decision as to the guardian of their children, not a judge. State law determines how a parent can designate a guardian for any minor children, so it is important to speak with an attorney to ensure the requirements are met.

Management/Distribution of Assets

Another key element to an estate plan is setting up a distribution scheme for your assets. Doing so will help ensure that your assets are managed and/or distributed pursuant to your wishes and for the benefit of your children. Under a Will or trust document, you have the ability to create trusts for your children to be controlled by a trustee until the children reach a certain age. Typically, such a trust would provide that the assets can be used by the trustee for the general health, education and welfare of the children until they reach a certain age. However, you can also place more specific parameters or restrictions as to the management and distribution of the money. Without an estate plan in place, any of your assets meant for your children would likely be placed with a custodian appointed by the court and be administered pursuant to Illinois law until the child turns eighteen Once the child turns eighteen, the money will be distributed to them outright.

The importance of an estate plan for parents with minor children cannot be understated. While you may know who you would want to take care of your children and/or manage your assets if you and your spouse are no longer able, if your wishes are not set forth in a valid estate plan, you leave many important decisions up to others.  Contact one of the estate planning attorneys at Mathis, Marifian & Richter, Ltd. to get your estate plan in place today.


Professional Services Disclaimer: Please note that the information presented here is as an educational service, and while it contains information about legal issues, it is not legal advice. No warranty is made regarding the applicability of the information presented to a particular client situation, and the information set forth is not a substitute for original legal research, analysis and drafting for a particular client situation.