Most state laws require an adult to manage a child's inheritance of property until the child turns eighteen. The decedent who leaves the property usually names an adult as "property guardian" in a trust or living will, rather than rely on the court to choose someone. It's possible the court might name someone the decedent wouldn't have chosen, and leaving matters to the court delays transfer of the property. Many people choose a will as the legal instrument to leave property to minor children.
Find out what your state's requirements are for creating a valid will. If the will doesn't meet the legal requirements for your state, the property guardianship won't serve your intended purpose. Understand the titles of executor, personal guardian and property guardian -- each person has a different role. Decide what property to include in the will. If you have a surviving spouse or partner who has ownership in the property, the law only permits you to leave the children your interest in the property.
Choose an executor for the estate. This person has the responsibility for overall administration -- paying bills, filing tax returns and distributing the property to minor children -- of the estate's assets in accordance with the will. Typically, a testator (the person leaving the will) selects the surviving spouse, another relative or a close friend to act as executor. Before the property distribution takes place, the executor must pay the estate's debts, taxes and other obligations. The remaining property goes to the minor children (and anyone else listed in the will) according to the state's probate laws.
Discuss the estate with the executor you've chosen. Make sure you have a "meeting of the minds" about how you want your estate handled. Include a letter of explanation as to your choice of guardian in case someone challenges your decision in court. The letter gives the judge insight into the making of your decision. Speak to the property guardian about your desires for the management of the property left to minor children.
Select a personal guardian for each minor child, or one person who serves as guardian for all the children. The role of the personal guardian is different from that of a property guardian. This person has the responsibility of raising the children if you or the other parent can't. Name an alternate guardian in the event the primary guardian cannot serve. The personal guardian can also function as the property guardian.
Name the property guardian in the will. The probate court must officially appoint this person to the property-management position. The property guardian manages the property inherited by the children. Usually, the property guardian turns the property over to the minors when they become adults.
Follow the state's laws for making a will. Sign the will in front of two witnesses, both over the age of 18 (verify your state's requirements for the number of witnesses).
Have the witnesses sign a "self-approving" affidavit. The witnesses must sign the statement in the presence of a notary public, but won't have to swear in probate court as to the authenticity of the will. Store the document in a safe place. Inform the executor where to find the will and of any steps that'll be necessary to obtain it.
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