Despite what your kids are probably telling you right now, the best gift you can give them is not a new doll that grows hair when you water it or a stuffed animal that never stops singing “Baby Shark.” Don’t get me wrong—I’m sure those gifts will bring the house down. But an important gift that’s too often overlooked or postponed is making preparations for your family in case something happens to you. Getting a sound estate plan in place is important for everyone, and it’s especially important when you have young children. The following are a few reasons why you should consider implementing an estate plan, and sooner rather than later.
For most parents with young children, this is the biggest motivation to get an estate plan in place. The primary estate planning document, whether a Last Will and Testament or a Trust, will have a provision that allows you to designate who you want to act as guardian of your children if both parents are unavailable. Absent such guidance from a Last Will and Testament or a Trust, a court will make that important decision for you.
This is likely what comes to mind when you think of estate planning. A Last Will and Testament or a Trust allows you to designate who you want your property to go to, and in the case of a Trust, you can even designate when, why, and how you want such property to be distributed. For example, you could set aside a sum of money for your child to use for college or to be distributed when he or she turns a certain age. If you don’t have a Last Will and Testament or a Trust in place, the court must follow state intestacy laws to distribute your property. Kansas intestacy laws provide that if there is a surviving spouse and surviving children, half of the estate passes to the surviving spouse and the other half passes to the children, which is not what most people wish to happen.
Estate planning isn’t just to plan for what happens when you die—it also provides an avenue to make sure you’re taken care of while you’re alive, but unable to take care of yourself. A Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions allows you to designate the individual you trust to make decisions on your behalf and manage your finances. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to designate the individual you trust to make any health care decisions on your behalf. Finally, a Living Will (different from the Last Will and Testament discussed above) allows you to designate your wishes for end-of-life medical care. If you do not have documents in place that designate your wishes on these matters, a court or health care professional will make these decisions for you.
All of these decisions are difficult ones to make. Now, imagine trying to make those decisions for someone else with no clear direction on what they would have wanted. Implementing a proper estate plan ensures that you and your loved ones are personally and financially cared for in the way you want, and will be a lasting gift that your children are certain to thank you for in the future.
Karlee Canaday joined Martin Pringle in 2019 after clerking with the firm for two years. Karlee completed her undergraduate degree at Kansas State University and went on to earn her J. D. at the University of Kansas School of Law. She focuses her practice on business & entrepreneurial law, tax law as well as estate planning including estate administration and probate.