What Would Happen to My Child If Something Happened to Me?

by Larissa Bixler Stein

If you have a minor child, this question is likely in the back of your mind. As well it should be. Do you have a plan? Have you properly documented your plan? Be sure that you have taken steps to secure your child’s future in case there is ever a day you cannot care for your child yourself.

  1. Select Guardians. No parent likes to think of anyone raising their child but themselves. But, hard as it is, this is a decision no parent should put on the back burner. If something happens to you and you have failed to name a guardian for your child, a court that does not know anything about your child will decide who should raise your child, and there are no guarantees the court would choose someone who is truly best for your child.
  2. Legally Document Your Choice of Guardian. Deciding on a guardian does no good at all if you have not legally documented your choice. North Carolina law provides that a court must give substantial weight to any guardian nomination you put in your Will. Therefore, every parent absolutely must have a Will in which they name a guardian for their child.
  3. Provide Financial Support Appropriately. Remember that children under the age of 18 cannot legally receive property, so do not leave property to them directly in your Will or directly designate them as a primary or contingent beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement accounts. If you do that (or if you do not have a Will at all), a court will get involved to decide who should manage the funds for your child and meanwhile the funds will be inaccessible to anyone to use for your child’s benefit. Instead, set up a Trust to receive and manage property for your child’s benefit until they reach a responsible age.

John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” which is very true for estate planning. If you wait to see whether disaster strikes, there may be no time to plan effectively. We hope the sun shines on you and your family for many decades to come, but remember that the best time to prepare for potential difficult times is now. You will gain the peace of mind of knowing you have done everything possible to provide a secure future for those you love. We are always happy to help people create a more secure future for their loved ones, so please let us know if we can answer questions for you about Wills, Trusts, or other ways of protecting minor children through estate planning.

Larissa Bixler Stein is an attorney with Garrity & Gossage, LLP whose passion is helping those in North and South Carolina provide a more secure future for themselves and their loved ones through Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Guardianship, Probate, and Elder Law Services. Please note that this article is intended for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. Legal advice depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual’s situation. Those seeking specific legal advice or assistance should contact an attorney.