The celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day remind us of the responsibilities God has placed on parents to provide for their children. “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV).
What if mother and father aren’t there to provide for their children? There is no replacing mother and father in the lives of children should illness, accident or other causes remove them from their parenting roles while their children are still minors. A couple can take estate-planning steps to provide for their children’s journey to adulthood should they have to make that journey without their parents.
A popular online write-your-own-will site advises young parents to write a will and name the guardian for their children. That is important, since a guardian will take over for the parents if both are unavailable to raise the children.
More is required. At the death of both parents, the named guardian cannot automatically use the inheritance to care for them. The probate court will name the guardian for the children, but the court will control the inheritance until they reach the legal age of 18. Upon attaining the age of 18, under a simple will, the court would be required to distribute to children their entire inheritance.
Court management of the inheritance, until the child reaches 18, makes management move slowly and it can be expensive. Each expense must be documented and approved by the court. If there are stocks, certificates of deposit, real estate or other investments, the court must protect the interests of the child. An attorney representing the child must also be involved. These expenses are paid from the inheritance.
Few parents would want their children to inherit everything at 18, but with a simple will, this would be the case. A testamentary trust is a tool that, upon the death of the last parent, would name someone — a trustee — to manage the inheritance instead of the court, avoiding the delays and expenses of court supervision. Under a trust, distribution of the inheritance could be delayed past the age of 18, possibly to be made in stages at different ages.
Providing for not only the person to care for children but also for the management of the inheritance in a timely and cost-efficient way are important responsibilities.
John M. Hardin is the Missouri Baptist Foundation’s general counsel and corporate secretary.
The finance column is a regular feature of Word & Way.