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Lombard estate planning attorneysWhen most people think about the concept of estate planning, they tend to think about money and “things.” Of course, there is nothing wrong with this thought, as estate planning does require a person to decide which beneficiaries will receive what property when the person dies. Property and debt considerations, however, are only part of the estate planning equation, especially if you have children who are under the age of 18. With the help of a qualified attorney, your estate plan can include your wishes regarding how your children will be cared for if something happens to you.

Guardianship Considerations

It is not easy to even ask the question, but what would happen to your children if you were, all of a sudden, out of the picture? Your spouse would most likely take on additional responsibilities for your children if you are married, but what if you are single or divorced? Or worse, what if you and your spouse were to die in the same tragic accident? Unfortunately, the realities of life are often extremely cruel.

If your children were suddenly left without any surviving parents, the court would be responsible for appointing someone to the role of guardian. In most situations, the court would choose a close family member, such as a grandparent, uncle, aunt, or someone else with whom your children already have a relationship. The court would do everything possible to make a decision based on serving the best interests of the children. However, you know your own family better than any lawyer or judge ever could, which means that you are in the best position to make such decisions for your children.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneysOne of the most important purposes of estate planning is safeguarding the best interests of minor children. If you are a parent with a child under the age of 18, you should be aware of your options regarding guardianship. Although it can be incredibly difficult to think about, all parents should consider who they would want raising their child or children should something happen to them and/or the other parent. In the tragic case that parents pass away before their minor children, an estate plan will dictate who will have legal guardianship of them as well as address inheritance benefits. While it can be an emotional process, creating an estate plan gives parents peace of mind knowing their minor children will be cared for should the worst happen.

When Parents Pass Away Without an Estate Plan

When someone dies without a will, his or her property is divided according to Illinois law during probate court. Minor children can inherit property or wealth but are legally unable to receive the property or manage it before they are a legal adult. The inherited property is instead be managed by a legally-appointed guardian. If no estate planning documents addressing guardianship have been created, this guardian will be appointed by the court. Without an estate plan, it is possible that children’s inheritance and guardianship decisions will be in hands of strangers.

Options for Establishing Guardianship and Inheritance

There are many different ways to manage your children’s inheritance. One way is to establish a trust. A trust allows you to designate someone to handle wealth and assets which will eventually be given to your children. Trusts can be individually established for children, or a single family trust can be drafted. Through the trust, an individual or party is named as the successor trustee and will hold and manage property upon your death. Trusts allow you to decide how your property is invested, used, managed, and distributed to your children, not a court. Trust provisions that assign a reliable relative or friend to hold assets for your children can also be included in a last will and testament. You also have the option of appointing a guardian for your child through a Power of Attorney document.

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