A fiduciary is someone who acts on behalf of another in legal matters. When you are estate planning as the parents of minors, it is important to find fiduciaries who are both qualified and willing to act in your child’s interests in the event that you both die.
According to Kiplinger, there are two main fiduciaries that you can name to act on behalf of your minor child or children in the event of your deaths. A guardian is essential, while a trustee is optional.
The law prevents minor children from receiving an inheritance directly. A trust is a tool that allows you to set aside money for the care of your children while they are still minors and allows them to receive it under conditions that you set when they come of age. The entity responsible for overseeing the trust and making payments according to your instructions is a trustee.
If you have concerns about your children’s ability to manage money even after they come of age, you can arrange for the trustee to remain in a position of authority over their finances until they reach a certain age or indefinitely. Naming a co-trustee helps ensure that someone is managing your children’s money if the original trustee is no longer able to serve. It also puts another pair of eyes on the funds to check that there are no irregularities in their administration and disbursement.
A guardian is someone who takes care of your children’s physical and emotional needs, including shelter, food and love, on a day-to-day basis. Even if you do not have a trust, you must name a guardian for your children. Otherwise, it falls to the court to do so, and the person it chooses may not be the person you would have wanted.
In a legal sense, a guardian’s responsibility toward your minor children ends when they reach age 18, though the relationship between them may last longer.