It is a wise decision for any parent, no matter how young, to have measures in place for their children to be taken care in the event of a tragedy. No parent wants to confront the issue of who will take care of their children if they can’t, but it is one that should not be overlooked.  All parties involved, the parents, appointed guardian or conservator, and the children should be made aware of the plan as soon as it is legally in place.

For example, imagine that a young couple in their twenties have two children, ages three and five.  Tragically, both parents are killed in a car accident with a drunk driver. However, soon after each child was born, the parents took measures to legally appoint a conservator, also called a guardian in some states, for them in case of such an event before they reached legal age. Once that court-appointed conservator takes control, he or she will have several matters for which they are responsible.

A conservator will invest and manage any assets of the minor. If the parents left financial assets to the children, the conservator will decide when and where those are invested until they are due to be disbursed. If the minors inherit real estate, the conservator will manager that property by paying expenses for maintenance, taxes, mortgage payments, and maintaining insurance until the child reaches legal age. All funds left behind will be used to care and provide for the children while under the guardianship, including medical expenses, education, and food. At the end of every year up until the child becomes of legal age, or the conservatorship is legally terminated, the conservator must file a full accounting with the court.

If you are the parent of young children, discussing these options with an estate planning attorney can offer peace of mind and surety that your children will always be well taken care of. It is never too early to consider estate planning, even if you feel like you don’t have many assets. Managing assets for the children is only one portion of what a conservator does. The most important part is making sure your children are safe and loved, which is priceless.