Rarely do parents with minor children provide for their children with even a simple will or trust. While our practice has involved the preparation of thousands of wills, only a few hundred in over 35 years of will and trust preparation have involved wills or trusts prepared for parents of minor children. This isn’t because we don’t offer these wills. It’s because few parents of minor children think of the need to have these essential care-planning documents prepared. While senior citizen wills and trust are an important part of planning for our final years, their ability to simplify and reduce the cost of distributing estates, pales in comparison to the needs of minor children if unexpected illness or accident occurs while their children are minors. A very primary issue even if the parent has few assets is who the child will live with and who will make his or her life decisions if the child’s parents are no longer here. What could have been a simple decision can turn into a long and expensive court battle that didn’t need to occur and could even result in the child or children being removed from the relatives they have known all their lives.
For parents with assets, or for the child who receives a substantial settlement when a parent’s death is caused by the negligence of a driver or business, the lack of a will with trust provisions or a trust can deprive a child of support when it is really needed. Few parties are prepared to set up a financial plan that provides for a child during his or her dependent years. Additionally without trust provisions in a will (even at a time when the parent does not have many assets), a minor child in Florida is entitled to all of his or her funds when the child turns 18 years of age, even though sound planning would spread the inheritance over the child’s college years and a bit beyond, if possible. Few children have the maturity to retain an inheritance when they just reach the minimum age of adulthood. Even the few who begin responsibly, will soon find a crowd of “friends” who are far too eager to spend a child’s inheritance. The classic lines from the old Billie Holiday song “God Bless the Child” still apply:
“When you’ve got money, you’ve got lots of friends, coming round your door.
But when the money’s gone and all their friending ends . . . They won’t be around any more”
A fairly simple and relatively inexpensive will with trust and guardianship provisions can prevent this disaster. It may not be flashy, or score many Internet hits and it won’t be found on a U-tube video, but the gift of a will or trust that protects your children or allows your children to protect your grandchildren may be one of the greatest legal gifts you can provide to your loved ones