Children and Wills-Guardians, Trustees, Trust, and When to Give the Kids Money

The four big questions for parents of children when estate planning are, who should be the Guardian? Who should be the Trustee? How should we give our money to our kids?  At what age should I give the money to my kids. 

Guardians

Parents are by law Guardians of their children. In this role, they have the legal right to make most decisions for them including medical, school, sports, health, and treatment.  Under the law, only parents have this right and if there is no parent someone needs to be appointed the Guardian.  Appointment as a Guardian requires a Court appointment in New York and Connecticut.

One of the most important things to do in a Will is to name the Guardian for your kids.  This only happens if there is no parent available.  Being a Guardian is a big job and responsibility.  Do you want another kid?

Technically, a Court can appoint anyone in the best interests of the child as the Guardian.  However, the Courts in New York and Connecitcut will almost appoint the Guardian that the parents named in a Will.

The Guardian has to be at least 18, without felony convictions, a US citizen or permanent resident, and the Court will run a background check. 

Often a brother or sister in the same area with kids a similar age will be the best choice.  But, make sure to choose wisely.

How to Leave Money for our Kids

Generally, the best way to leave kids money is to have a Trust in your Will that holds the money until the kids are old enough to handle it. The

Trust allows the parents to ensure their money goes to their kids in a reasonable way and allows them to take the maturity and personality of the kids into account.  

 Who Should be the Trustee

The Trustee is normally the same person as the Executor.  The Guardian is normally the same person as the Trustee.  However, sometimes the Guardian is the fantastic parent type with a different Trustee who is a better investment type.  Sometimes, you don't want the Guardian to have access to the funds without a check (remember the Ferrari). 

What Age to Give them the Money

That age varies by kid.  Most parents will choose an age between 20 and 35, sometimes giving out portions of the funds at certain ages such as 25, 30 and 35.  Only you know if your kids will blow it on a Ferrari or trips to Italy.  For the frugal saver, the age is often younger.  For the reckless wildman, the age is normally older.  

If you don't have a trust the funds will only be held until age of majority at 18 in New York and Connecticut and then will be given to the child with no further supervision.   

Before the kids get the money, the Trustee can use the funds in a wide variety of ways for the kid's benefit for such things as college, car, home, marriage, starting a business or whatever might help them.

 

Elder, Wills, Estates, Trusts, Special Needs Tax & Business Law; Attorney John Sweeney

Sweeney Legal, LLC, provides legal, practical, and business counsel to Seniors, families, and businesses in the Fairfield, Connecticut area, including the communities of Bridgeport, Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, New Canaan, Newtown, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Stamford, Weston, Westport and Wilton. John is also licensed in New York serving Westchester County including the towns of Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, and Somers.

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