Have you ever wondered what would happen to your kids if you and your spouse passed away? Perhaps you’ve discussed the issue with friends and family, but is that enough to ensure your children are taken care of in the event of the unthinkable?
Unfortunately, just having the conversation is not enough, but it is a great first step! We recommend preparing a will that appoints a guardian to care for your minor children if you pass away.
A guardian is the person who cares for and makes decisions for a minor child. Typically, each parent is a guardian. If one parent dies, and they have not appointed anyone to become the guardian, that parent’s guardianship rights are extinguished.
If both parents, or all guardians, pass away without appointing anyone to care for that child, the Public Guardian and Trustee (the “PGT”) will be responsible for your child’s financial and legal rights and the Ministry of Children and Family Development will be responsible for your child’s health, education, and upbringing. A family member or friend would need to apply for guardianship of your child and if no one volunteers, your child will enter the foster care system.
What if I’m divorced or the other parent is not involved?
Not every parent is a guardian. The common exceptions are:
In BC, the age of majority is 19, meaning that children who inherit from their parent’s estate cannot access their inheritance until 19. If you do not have a will, the PGT will manage your child’s inheritance and your child or their guardian will have to apply for approval from the PGT to make any withdrawals to cover your child’s expenses, like school trips, sports, education, or living expenses.
Once your child turns 19, if there is no will stating a different intention, your child will receive their entire inheritance.
With a will, you can appoint a trustee to manage your child’s inheritance and you can stagger distribution of that inheritance to avoid the unfortunate situation of a teenager suddenly having access to your entire estate. You can delay the distribution of your estate and set parameters for what your child’s inheritance can be spent on.
In conclusion, preparing a will that addresses your child’s welfare in the case of your passing is important. We invite you to discuss this matter with us to ensure your children are well cared for.
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