If you have minor children, you are being irresponsible as parents if you don’t make a will that names a guardian for your children and establishes a trust for their inheritance. On this Saturday’s broadcast, Ted and I discussed wills and why you might need one. A child under 18 must have a legal guardian and the court will appoint one whether you have named one in your will or not. But, who will be appointed? The judge may be picking from several candidates and may or may not name the one you would have chosen, unless you take the time to name the guardian in your will. Unless you pick Jack the Ripper, the judge will more than likely appoint the guardian you have named.
What about your assets? Age 18 is not safe for anyone to inherit anything, except maybe bus fare. In your will, you need to call for the assets to be held in trust for your children. It’s really pretty simple. In your will you leave your assets to your children, but if they are under a specified age, then the assets are held by someone you name as trustee (usually not the guardian) and the trustee helps kids out with what they need until they attain the age you select. Education expenses – the trustee covers them. Housing, food, health care – the trustee takes care of the necessities. I remember asking one set of parents when their son should receive his inheritance. They thought and thought (and thought) and finally said, “65 should be about right.” What do you think? Sometimes, we split the inheritance into two or three installments, like 25, 30 and 35. Think about it. And then take action.
While you are at it, sit down and write a letter to your children’s guardian. What is important to you that you want the guardian to know? The guardian can’t call you with questions. You’re dead. So work on your letter, update it from time to time, and keep a copy with your will. If nothing else, you and the kids will have fun reading the letter when you don’t die. But, if you die before they are 18, your guardian will put extra flowers at your gravesite (and stop trying to call your cell phone).
In a later blog posting, we’ll talk about putting Saran Wrap around your children’s inheritance, to protect them from loss of their inheritance to a lawsuit or failed marriage. How would you like to wrap up your son or daughter’s inheritance so that the bad guys can’t get it?
On this week’s edition of Legal Line, we started up a weekly IQ test and tried out a lawyer joke of the week. We’ll see what the reaction is. Ted and I are on the air each Saturday, taking your general legal questions. Check it out.