As of March 3rd, rescue crews postponed the search for a missing two-year-old who is believed to have died when his mother’s car inexplicably swerved into the California Aqueduct in Hesperia, killing her and another child. Tragically, only of the three children in the car appears to have survived.
Although a dive team searched repeatedly for the toddler Noah’s body, they were unable to find the child. San Bernardino County Sheriff’s investigators could not determine exactly why the red Volkswagen Beetle unexpectedly veered off the road and into the aqueduct. The vehicle ultimately flipped onto its roof and landed in the water.
The only surviving child, 10-year-old Elijah, was thrown into the water along with his brothers but managed to find something to keep himself afloat. According to his family, Elijah said he tried to save his brothers. The children’s father, understandably distraught refused to leave the scene the night of the accident, as Noah’s remains had still not been found.
Why it is important to plan for your death
One of the primary purposes of an estate plan is to prepare you and your family for your eventual death. An estate plan provides directions for how your estate should be handled after your death. One of the primary estate planning instruments that addresses what should be done after your death is the Last Will and Testament. A Will is basically written instructions on how you want your estate to be distributed after you die. A Will can also allow you to nominate a guardian for your children, should you pass away while they are still minors.
Planning for guardianship of a minor child in case both parents die
Every family with minor children needs to be prepared for the possibility of guardianship in the unfortunate situation where both parents are no longer around to care for them. Though no parent wants to actually think about it, you would want to know that if something happens to you, your child will be in good hands. Planning for guardianship will give you the peace of mind you need.
What is a guardianship?
Guardianship is the legal status conferred by the court that gives an individual the legal right to care for a minor child and the authority to make decisions on that child’s behalf. The laws governing guardianships are very different from state to state. In most states, the person seeking legal guardianship of a minor child is required to first file a petition with the court. Courts basically have considerable discretion in deciding who would ultimately be a proper guardian. However, the preferences of the parents typically play a key role in the determination. In order to make your preferences known, you must include the appropriate guardianship provisions in your estate plan.
Legal guardianship is required following the death of both parents
When one parent dies, the remaining parent will continue to be the child’s legal guardian automatically. The only time that does not happen is when the surviving parent has lost or given away his or her parental rights. A guardianship is typically not required until either the remaining parent dies, or both parents die simultaneously. If that happens, a guardian must be appointed by the court to assume legal guardianship over the minor child.
You should include guardianship provisions in your will
As you are likely aware, your last will and testament is used to provide instructions regarding the distribution of your property upon your death. Another important purpose of a will is to appoint a trusted individual as guardian of your minor children, in the event they are still minors at the time of your death and there is no surviving parent. Without a will or some other guardianship provisions, the court will determine on its own who that guardian will be, without any input from you. Most parents do not want to leave that decision in the hands of an impartial judge.
The time to create your estate plan is now
Many clients delay creating an estate plan because they think they are too young to need it or they don’t have enough assets to worry about it. Yet, in reality, we cannot predict how long we have to live, or whether we will suffer from an illness or accident that leaves us incapacitated. For that reason, estate planning should be a priority sooner rather than later. Once disaster strikes or the unexpected happens, it may be too late. The families of clients who don’t plan ahead are left to pick up the pieces, often without any idea how to start.
Download our FREE estate planning worksheet today! If you have questions regarding wills, trusts, or any other estate planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.
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