While many people do not think about making a will until retirement age, it is just as important for younger adults. For parents with young children, it is imperative to have a valid and updated will. Not only does a will direct who will inherit in the event of death, but also allows parents to choose a caregiver for their minor children. Failing to have a will means that an estate will be distributed under Texas’s intestacy statutes. As for minor children, the court will choose a guardian and appoint a trustee to handle the estate until the children become adults. In addition to losing the ability to choose the personal guardian and financial trustee for their children, parents also subject their estates to the added costs of intestate administration by failing to establish a last will and testament.
Key Concerns for People with Minor Children
The two main estate planning concerns for parents with minor children are 1) who will take custody of the children in the event both parents pass, and 2) who will manage their finances until the minors become of age. A properly written will addresses both issues. Parents can add a designation of guardian clause in the will specifying a guardian for their minor children, as well as a successor should the first choice be unable or unwilling to serve. Parents may also form a trust within the will to manage any property minor children will inherit. The will designates a trustee (as well as a successor trustee) to protect and maintain assets and income until the children reach the age of majority.
Guardian of the Person vs. Trustee of the Minor’s Assets
Texas wills that address the care of minor children define two different legal roles: guardian of the minor’s person and trustee of the minor’s financial estate. The former refers to the person that will take care of the child’s daily needs and living situation, while the latter manages and maintains the testamentary trust created in the will. These two roles may be held by the same person. However, if the parents believe one family member or friend would make a good caregiver while another is better at managing finances, they may split the roles between two people.
In the age of fill-and-print legal forms, it may be tempting to choose to purchase a form will from an internet site. Every state’s laws are different, and wills for parents of minor children involve complexities typically not addressed by form wills from national websites. It is prudent to consult an experienced Texas probate and estate planning attorney to identify your specific needs and discuss pricing. Many attorneys can prepare wills for parents of young children for an affordable, flat fee.
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