Even thinking about our own mortality causes most of us great anxiety, but when there are minor children involved, these feelings are intensified. One thing clients often ask us is how they can still influence their children and how their children are raised if something happens to them. Obviously, once you are dead you can only have but so much influence. There are some things you can do when estate planning, however, that can help you make your wishes known to your children and whoever is raising them, and have influence even after you are gone.
Talk to the Guardians You Choose
The most important thing you will do to have influence over your children after your death is choosing the right guardian to raise them. Whoever you choose will step into your shoes and parent your children, so this is where you can exercise the most influence. First and foremost, you must choose somebody you trust to raise your children, whose values are compatible with your own.
Once you choose a guardian, talk about your wishes with him or her. If certain values are important to you, make sure the guardian is aware. For example, if you want your child to play a musical instrument in high school, or go to church every Sunday, then discuss this with the guardian you choose. While there is no guarantee that a guardian will follow all of your wishes, the more you share with the guardian you choose about how you want to raise your child, the more likely the guardian is to raise your child or children in accordance with your wishes.
Leave Messages Behind
You can leave messages directly for your children. Make videos, write letters, anything you want that allows you to communicate your desires to your children. There is no greater way to influence and mentor your children after you are gone than to leave them direct advice.
Make Conditions for Trust Disbursements
This is where you can make your impact felt the most even after you are gone. If some things are very important to you for your children to accomplish, then you can condition inheritance upon those things. Many parents put inheritances for children in a trust, and arrange for the distribution of funds upon the achievement of milestones. Graduation from high school may trigger a disbursement, graduation from college another; even high grades can be rewarded through a trust.
Your Imagination is the Only Limitation
Hopefully you will live a long and happy life, and be physically present to influence and mentor your children. If not, however, there are many ways to ensure your children know what your wishes are, and to let them know what your advice would be when they are facing difficult life situations. The ones discussed herein are some of the more popular methods of maintaining an influence after your death, but there are all kinds of ways to accomplish this goal. If you would like to discuss this or any other estate planning issue further, contact one of our experienced estate planning attorneys for a consultation.