Abandoned in a Kohl’s department store in Wichita, a 5-year-old has been placed in foster care when no one claimed him at a custody hearing. It has been reported that a relative was raising the boy, but left him in the department store after attempting to shoplift and fleeing the scene. This unfortunate story reminds parents of the importance of having a plan for who will take care of your minor children if something happens to you.
Planning to avoid abandoned children
The abandoned child was taken into custody after no relatives made an appearance at the temporary custody hearing to claim him. Efforts are being made to talk to relatives before the court decides on permanent placement. The unfortunate reality is, if parents do not make arrangements ahead of time to be sure that guardianship is established quickly if that ever becomes necessary, then their children could end up with someone unfavorable or, worse than that, a ward of the state.
You can’t rely on relatives to automatically step up
If the 5-year-old in Wichita teaches us anything, it is that you can’t simply rely on the hope that a responsible relative will step up and take care of your child. While most parents want to believe that would be true, that is not necessarily the case. Even though there may be some who want to do it, not everyone is actually capable of doing it. Whether it is because of health issues, finances, or other personal issues, even those with the best intentions may not be able to take on the responsibility at that time.
What happens if you don’t have a plan?
Without a will establishing a guardian for your minor children, a court will be required to make the decision. Something else to remember is that, during the time the court must spend making its determination, your child will likely be placed in foster care. The good news is, the choices you include in your will have deference with the court and make appointing a guardian much easier to accomplish.
Estate planning provisions regarding the care of minor children
Estate planning is an important responsibility and does not only include wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. For families with young children, there are even more important issues that must be addressed when parents decide to start their estate plan. The same is true if you have children after your estate plan has been created. The main goal is to make sure there are provisions for what should happen to the children if the parents die simultaneously or close in time to one another. The same goes if one parent passes away while the children are minors.
Deciding who should care for the minor children
The first step is deciding who should care for your children if you and your spouse die. The unfortunate reality is that minor children can be orphaned unexpectedly, whether it is a car accident, plane crash, or some other unforeseen tragedy. If you do not have a plan, your children could end up in the foster care system. Without your direction, there is no guarantee that they will be cared for by the best person.
How estate assets can be transferred to minor children
Based on Kansas inheritance laws, a child will inherit his or her share of the parent(s)’ estate, depending on how many children there are. When a child is still a minor, the inheritance will be held in an estate of the minor account. The guardian can request distributions of that money, as needed to provide and care for the child. After the child reaches the age of majority, all of the remaining assets of the estate can be distributed to the child. The court will not necessarily consider whether the child (now a young adult) is capable of properly managing the assets. For this reason, it is better to plan ahead and establish a trust.
Creating a trust for a minor child
As part of an estate plan, you can create a trust for your minor children which can hold any inheritance property that is transferred to the children while they are still minors. You can do this by including such provisions in your will while naming the trustee who will invest, manage and then distribute the trust assets. All transactions must be conducted for the benefit of the minor children and in compliance with the terms you include in the trust.
Join us for a FREE workshop today! If you have questions regarding planning issue regarding minor children, or any other estate planning matters, contact Gaughan & Connealy for a consultation either online or by calling us at (913) 262-2000.