Many young families believe they don’t need to worry about estate planning until later in life. Ideally, nothing ever happens to either parent, but tragedy can occur. Although few parents of young children wish to think about this possibility, it’s necessary to think about to effectively plan for your children’s future. An estate planning attorney in Metro East can help you draft the right documents and make sure they are enforceable.

An estate plan enables you to plan for your children’s care, asset distribution, and your own health care. Because more individuals are having children when they are older, this also means end-of-life care is a more pressing concern. Although difficult to consider, it’s important to determine how your children will be cared for if you or both you and your co-parent were to pass.

Important Decisions to Make for Minor Children in Your Estate Plan

Many decisions should be made with a comprehensive estate plan. Decisions that directly affect your children’s lives or indirectly benefit them include:

  1. Name a Guardian

    The most essential thing an estate plan allows you to do is name a guardian for your minor children. This can be done by creating a last will and testament, one of the most foundational estate planning documents. If you are married, your spouse would likely receive guardianship if the decision is up to the court. However, if you are not married to the other parent of your children, this is less certain.

    There may also be unfortunate circumstances where your children lose both of their parents. The court may give guardianship to another family member, or other members of your family may contest guardianship decisions by the court. Your children may have a guardian you do not prefer, have unstable living circumstances, or even become wards of the state. The court intends to make the choice in a child’s interests, but mistakes can occur.

    By naming a guardian and a contingent guardian, you are providing certainty about your wishes and stability for your children. This ensures they are cared for by the individuals you wish and limits family conflict by clearly stating your intentions. It’s important that you choose a guardian who is capable, responsible, over 18, meets other legal requirements, and whom your children feel comfortable with. This is a very important decision to make.

  2. Distributing Assets

    Minor children can inherit assets, but they cannot manage or control most of those assets until they are 18. When minor children inherit, their legal guardians have control over those assets until they are of age. In some cases, a child’s legal guardian controlling their assets is not beneficial. A more comprehensive estate plan can determine who is responsible for managing the assets and even slowly distribute the inheritance to your children over time once they are adults.

    A will allows you to inventory and list the distribution of your assets after you pass and name an executor to administer the estate. However, it does not allow you to bypass probate, and the assets will be inherited by your children during that process.

    By creating a trust, you can determine when children receive their inheritance and place a trustee in charge of the assets with specific instructions for their care and use. Your estate plan can also name a conservator to manage assets gifted to minor children.

    When you use these estate planning techniques, you can stipulate that your children have limited access to their inheritance without placing full responsibility on them.

  3. Leaving the Most Benefits Possible

    The goal of any comprehensive estate plan is to ensure your beneficiaries receive the most benefits and lose the least to taxes, probate court costs, and other fees. Many parents want their children to receive the most benefits possible from their estate.


Q: What Is an Important Component of an Estate Plan That All People With Minor Children Need to Complete?

A: One of the most important components of an estate plan for people with minor children is a will. A will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. It’s important to name both a guardian and a contingent guardian in case the initial guardian is unable to care for the children.

If you do not name a guardian for your children, and neither you nor the children’s other biological parent is able to care for them, they may be placed into the care of a relative you would not have chosen or enter the state’s custody.

Q: Why Is Estate Planning Important for Blended Families?

A: Estate planning is important for blended families because they have more complicated and extensive family relationships, and they may not be properly cared for under the state’s inheritance laws.

Depending on the state, if you die without a will, your spouse and your children are given priority for inheritance. This includes children of prior marriages in some states. However, in some states, relatives who are half-related to you receive half inheritance. Estate planning enables you to be more deliberate about which relatives get what in your estate.

Q: What Are the Two Most Important Purposes of Estate Planning?

A: The two most important purposes of estate planning are:

  1. Increasing the monetary benefits for your loved ones in part by lowering the time and money they must spend in probate court
  2. Protecting your personal well-being, intentions, and finances in a situation where you become incapacitated

Every individual’s wishes and purpose for their estate plan may be different, and the benefit of an estate plan is that it can be tailored to each person and family’s unique needs.

Q: Can a Minor Inherit Real Estate in Illinois?

A: A minor can inherit real estate and other assets if designated in a will in Illinois. However, they cannot receive or manage property prior to turning 18. It would be managed and held by a guardian who is either appointed in the will or by the court. Alternatively, the assets can be held in a trust, which would have specific instructions about how and when the property is managed and distributed. Custodial management can also be established through the Illinois Uniform Transfers to Minors Act.

Beginning Your Estate Plan

At Stange Law Firm, our estate planning attorneys can help you understand your goals for an estate plan that protects your children’s interests. Using these goals, we can determine what documents are needed for a simple or comprehensive estate plan. Contact us today.