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How To Prepare To Write A Will

A Few Things To Think About If You Have Minor Children

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Who will take care of your minor children?

  • For the sake of your minor children, think about who will provide for their care and upbringing if the other parent is deceased or if you believe the other parent is not competent to make personal or financial decisions for the child. Consider the following alternatives:
  • Alternatives include:
    • The appointment of a guardian. A guardian is the person who manages your children's property or takes care of your children. The same person can take care of a child's property and the child -- or you can use separate people.
    • To learn about a guardian for your children, click here
    • To learn how to choose a guardian for your children, click here.
  • Placing the children in a foster home. For information about foster care, click here.
  • Placing the children for adoption

What to do if you want to leave assets to minor children

  • Unless the property you leave to a minor is of little value, an adult will be required to manage the property until the minor reaches adulthood. The age at which a child reaches adulthood varies from state to state. It ranges from age 18 to 21. 
  • Alternatives for leaving property to a minor include the following:
    • Name a guardian
      • Although the court will appoint a guardian for a minor's property rather than  you, you can influence its selection by designating someone in your Will. Alternatively, in some states, you can also execute a document known as a "Pre-need Designation of Guardian," which will designate a person to be the guardian should the need arise. While neither the designation you make in your Will or a pre-need designation is legally binding on the court, judges usually follow your wishes unless they feel there is a good reason not to.
      • Appointing a guardian can be a slow process, and costly to your estate.
      • For more about choosing and designating a guardian, see Choosing a Guardian.
    • Create a trust
      • With a trust, you give property to a separate entity which is controlled by a trustee or trustees. When setting up the trust , you provide instructions about how you would like the assets invested and spent. Traditionally, when a child reaches the age you specify, the trust ends and the child receives whatever is left in the trust.
      • If you have more than one child, you can set up a "pot trust" for all of them. The trustee that you appoint to manage the trust will decide what each child needs and spend the money accordingly. This works especially well if you have children with special needs.
      • A trust can be created as a separate document while you are alive, or i tcan be created in your will.
      • To learn more, see Trusts.
    • Use the local Uniform Gifts/Transfers to Minors Act. In most states, you can choose a custodian to manage property you are leaving to a child. If you die when the child is under the age set by your state's law, the custodian will manage your property until the child is of age. 

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