Yes. If both parents of a child die or become otherwise unable to care for a minor child, another adult -- called a "personal guardian" -- must step in. The personal guardian will be responsible for raising your children until they become legal adults. You and the child's other parent can use your wills to nominate someone to fill this position. To avert conflicts, you should both name the same person. For more information, see Guardianship for Your Children.
You can choose that same guardian to manage property that you leave to your minor children or you can name someone different. You can name a "property guardian," a "custodian", or a "trustee" to manage the property:
- Name a property guardian. You can simply name a property guardian to manage whatever property the child inherits, if there's no other mechanism (a trust, for example) to handle it. The guardian will manage the property until the child reaches the age of 18.
- Name a custodian under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). In every state, except South Carolina and Vermont, you can choose a custodian to manage property you are leaving to a child. The custodian will step in to manage the property until the child reaches the age specified by your state's law -- 18 in a few states, 21 in most, and 25 in several others.
- Set up a trust for each child. You can use your will to create a trust for any property the child inherits and to name a trustee to handle the trust property until the child reaches the age you specify.
- Set up a "pot trust." If you have more than one child, you may want to set up just one trust for all of them. This arrangement is usually called a pot trust. You name a trustee to decide what each child needs and to spend money accordingly.
For more information, see Leaving an Inheritance for Children.