What do parents need to know about estate planning? How can a comprehensive estate plan help a parent prepare for incapacitation or death?

First, let’s discuss what happens without an estate plan. If you were to become unable to care for yourself or make decisions for yourself, or if you were to pass away, your minor children would be in need of a guardian. Of course, if you are married, your spouse would care for your children. If you share custody with your child’s other parent, he or she would step in as the sole guardian.

But what if something happens to you and your spouse at the same time? What if you are a single parent and do not share custody with anyone? What if, after you pass away, your surviving spouse becomes incapacitated or also passes away while the children are minors?

These hypotheticals are difficult to contemplate. But leaving your family to deal with guardianship of your children in the probate court can be much worse. Not only does a guardianship petition cost money in attorney and court fees, but there is a chance the court will award custody to someone you would not have approved of.

When I draft a will for my clients with minor children, I always include a guardianship nomination. This gives my clients the ability to nominate the people they would want to care for their children should that need arise. If appropriate, I encourage my clients to place conditions on particular guardians before they gain custody, such as that they are still married, live in southern California, or are able and willing to provide frequent contact with the child’s extended family.

Finding an estate planning attorney you trust can help make these decisions less stressful. I recommend speaking with trusted family and friends as well, but an experienced attorney will make your decision making much easier. Knowing your children have been planned for and provided for is priceless peace of mind.

Happy planning!


Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Brittany Britton is licensed to practice law in the state of California only.