Twice in the past week I took care of friends of mine who wanted and needed to get their estate plan in order for the first time. Both friends have minor children and have never done any estate planning before.
Estate planning for parents with minor children usually looks something like this:
1. Lifetime Usufruct to Spouse. Parents with minor children in Louisiana usually leave their spouse the lifetime usufruct of their estate. In Louisiana, you really can't leave your estate in full ownership to your spouse because forced heirship laws require you to leave part of your estate to your kids 23 or younger. The usufruct satisfied these forced heirship rules because you are not leaving out your children - you are leaving them "naked ownership" which permits them to inherit from you after you AND YOUR SPOUSE die.
2. Children's Inheritance In Trust. If you and your spouse die, you don't want your minor/young child(ren) to inherit it all in a lump sum. So, we often create a "testamentary trust" in your will whereby you name a trustee for your kids to manage their inheritance until they are older, and you designate a term (age 25 perhaps) when your kids can have their inheritance.
3. Tutors. If you have minor children, you will name their guardian who will play the role of parents if you die before your children are 18.
4. Powers of Attorney. You will likely designate your spouse as your Agent on your Durable Property Power of Attoreny and your Health Care Power of Attorney. If your children are young, you will likely name a trusted relative or friend as the alternate agent, if your spouse is unable to act as your agent.
5. Living Will Declaration. You will likely document your wishes regarding life support machines.
These are typical items that parents with minor children address when they are setting up their estate planning legal documents. There are other issues that often come into play but these are the basics. If you live in Louisiana and want to protect your minor children (of course you do!), let us know.