While most grandparents go to their grandchild’s baseball game and think about them hitting the ball out of the park or making a fantastic diving catch, when I attended my granddaughter’s tee-ball game last week, it made me think about estate planning and young children. Usually, when we discuss estate planning we are concerned with planning for those my age or older. (Although I’m not going to disclose my exact age, I am old enough to have four grandchildren.) However, every year, many minor children in the United States lose a parent and it can dramatically affect the rest of their lives, especially without proper planning.
Since most children grow up in two income households, the loss of one parent can dramatically reduce the amount of money available for their care. Therefore, those with minor children should make sure they have adequate life insurance coverage to replace their income if they pass away unexpectedly. This will provide peace of mind to both you and your spouse and will ensure that your children will have the monetary resources to provide what you would have if you were able. While shopping for life insurance, also talk to your agent or your financial advisor about a policy for your children. As much as we hate to think about losing a child, accidents do happen and the death of a child could cause a financial burden to the unprepared family for funeral and other expenses they may incur. You may also consider disability or long-term care insurance in case you are disabled and are unable to work. Disability insurance can provide an income for your family and long-term care insurance can pay for your cost of care.
Besides the financial impact that loss of a parent can have on child, proper planning is necessary to ensure your child will be cared for by those of your choosing if you are not able to care for them. In the state of Louisiana, a child is considered a minor until the age of 18. If a minor does not have a living parent, then a guardian (or tutor as it is called in Louisiana) must be appointed for him. Our law provides that this right to appoint a tutor belongs exclusively to the surviving parent. If the parents are divorced, only the custodial parent has this right. If joint custody was awarded, this right also belongs to the parent dying last. Therefore, whether you are married or divorced, you should appoint a tutor for your minor children.
Appointing a tutor for your child can be done in a testament (a will) or in a separate writing that is executed before a notary and two witnesses. Typically, it is done in a will because there are other considerations you will want to address besides just who will physically have custody of your child or children. You will generally want to provide a trust for your minor children so their inheritance will be held by a trusted person (the trustee) until the child reaches an appropriate age to receive it. Without a trust, a child is entitled to receive his or her inheritance when he or she reaches 18 – an age usually too young to make sound financial decisions.
So, while you are enjoying your children’s baseball, softball or tee-ball games this summer, make sure they are safe on the field by requiring them to always wear batting helmets while batting and on base, using special equipment for catchers and staying inside the dug out behind protective screening when not up to bat. And, while you’re ensuring they’re protected on the field, make sure you have taken care of the things necessary to protect them off the field too if you become disabled or pass away unexpectedly. To find out more about how to protect your family in case of death or disability, you should contact an estate planning attorney, insurance agent or financial advisor who has the knowledge to provide you with solutions to protect your family.