Naming Guardians for Children in New York Estate Plan

Designating inheritances is not the only purpose of a New York estate plan. Some local residents may feel like there is no rush to have a plan in place, because they do not have many assets to pass on or have no particular wishes about their possessions. But inheritances are just a part of the planning. For one thing, all families with children–regardless of their net worth–need to have a plan in place to designate alternate caregivers for their children in the event of death or disability.

Naming an appropriate guardian is one of the most important preparatory steps that a parent can take to ensure their child’s well-being no matter what the future holds. If the parents do not make their wishes known in appropriate legal documents, then the decision is left to the court. While the court will work to make the best decision with the information in front of it, there is obviously no replacement for a parent’s choice.

In our area it is crucial to have a New York estate planning lawyer guide your family through this process. That is both to ensure the legal formalities are met and also to have an experienced third-party involved in the event of disagreement.

As a recent high-profile case demonstrates, sometimes parents are split on the best people to designate as alternative-caregivers. In early May, groundbreaking rapper Adam Yauch died at age 47 after a bout with cancer. Fortunately, the Beastie Boys founding member had taken steps ahead of time to create a trust and a will. The provisions of the trust are private, and so the family was able to keep those details out of the public eye. However, the will was made public when filed with the New York City Surrogate’s Court earlier this month.

One of the interesting things about the details of the will is the terms of the guardianship details in the event Adam and his wife passed away. Interestingly, the details hinged on whether the singer died in an even or odd numbered year. If he died in an even numbered year then his parents would be guardians with his wife’ parents used as back-ups. If he died in an odd numbered year then the opposite would be true.

Our New York City estate planning attorneys know that this was likely the result of a compromise. The couple was probably split on who to designate, and this arrangement was reached during the planning process to accommodate both parties. Working with those who understand the common pitfalls opens the door to unique agreements being worked out that best meet the needs of the family.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Not All Children Treated Alike

Clumsy Estate Planning: Transferring A House to a Child

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