Questions I hear almost weekly from potential clients:
“I am a single mother and the father of my baby is not in his life, nor on the birth certificate. Will he get the baby when I die or will he get the baby’s inheritance?”
This question comes to me at least weekly and is complex. I am an estate planning attorney in Florida and work with many young people to establish an estate plan, should they die unexpectedly.
We live in a world where the traditional nuclear family has changed. Children are raised by two fathers, children are raised by single mothers, whose father is not in the picture, and the child does not know the father. Children are raised by single fathers, whose mother is not in the picture or their lives. As an estate planning attorney, I can do some great planning that can keep the children’s inheritance out of the hands of the uninvolved parent.
So many times, I see the results of no planning or poor planning. For example, if a child’s mother dies, she has done no planning at all, and the wealth will go through guardianship court, where the child’s other parent can petition the court for legal guardianship, over the property, and be appointed. That can be avoided completely, by setting up a trust for the child, where you have the ability to name who is in charge of those assets (the Trustee). And the other parent cannot get anywhere near those assets. A Trust is a private document that passes your property to your loved ones and heirs and allows control over how your heirs use the trust property. I do not recommend being in guardianship court, as no one is happy, and the extra attorney fees and court costs can diminish the child’s inheritance.
As far as who gets to raise the child, a natural parent is, by law, a legal guardian, of the person of the child. The family court would decide who will be the guardian of the person of the child, but anything you put in writing in your Last Will and Testament or Pre Need Guardian Document, would carry great weight with the court. As I do not practice family law, we need a family attorney to weigh in on these issues. Planning through legal documents for your minor children, when you are gone, is one of the important acts you can do for your children as a parent.