Your children are your pride and joy. It is no surprise that at some point or another, every parent likely becomes concerned about who will care for a minor child or children if one or both parents die or are incapacitated. From a financial perspective, many parents turn to life insurance in an effort to take care of their family in the event of death. While it is true that life insurance is a particularly helpful financial tool to protect your loved ones, it is just as important to consider how to leave the proceeds to your minor children.
Once you decide to purchase life insurance you will name a beneficiary of the insurance proceeds. If you fail to have a proper plan in place and your children are minors at the time they inherit life insurance proceeds, the court will appoint a conservator to “watch over” a minor person’s money. This process requires attorneys’ fees, court proceedings, supervision from the court, and will generally limit investment options — all costs and delays that will not help your children, but rather cost them a significant percentage of their inheritance. Another downside? Whatever’s left when the child turns 21 will be handed over, without any guidance or boundaries. This can impact college financial aid opportunities as well as open a ready opportunity for irresponsible spending that most parents would never intend.
How To Leave Assets To Your Children?
There are several ways in which you can structure your life insurance policies and overall estate plan to benefit your minor children in the most streamlined way possible.
First, instead of naming minor children as beneficiaries, use a children’s trust to manage and use the money for the benefit of your children. This lets you designate someone you think will manage the money well, rather than leaving it to the whims of the court.
Second, select and name a guardian to handle the day-to-day care for your children. This person can be different than the person managing in the money, which can sometimes work well depending on the amounts involved and the different skill sets needed to manage money versus raise children.
Benefits of a Trust
Generally, parents list a minor child as the secondary or contingent beneficiary on life insurance and retirement accounts after first naming the surviving spouse as a primary beneficiary. This may work, as long as everyone dies in the “right” order and at the “right” time. But, it’s a gamble, and providing structure through a trust for these inheritances is a vastly superior option. Unlike guardianship or custodian accounts, where the proceeds must be handed over once the minor(s) turns a certain age, you can specify at which age your child receives the proceeds. This allows you to specifically designate how the money is to be used, so it will be available for important life events, while protecting your children from reckless spending. Ultimately you have more control with a trust, and your customized plan will provide the best protection for your family.
If you have any questions about how to leave assets to your minor children — whether it is a life insurance policy or any other asset — contact us today so we can help you explore the options available to your family, determine what tax implications will result, and advise you on the best structure that will protect your family’s needs.
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