A Key Estate Planning Lesson from Guardians of the Galaxy

Estate planning pops up in unexpected places – even in an intergalactic action-fantasy-comedy film based on a comic book.

GalaxyIn the opening scene of Marvel Studios’ new film Guardians of the Galaxy (minor spoiler ahead), a young boy named Peter watches as his ill mother passes away in her hospital bed.  His father had left the family some time ago, effectively making Peter an orphan.  Peter, distraught with grief, runs out of the hospital onto a nearby grassy field to cry – and is immediately abducted by an alien spaceship, which is where the story begins in earnest.

While the details of Peter’s mother’s estate plan are not relevant to the film’s plot, the more critical point is: what happens when a young child is left without parents in the absence of an estate plan (and assuming no alien abduction)?

Dying Intestate

When someone dies without a will, they are said to have passed away “intestate.”  In that case, state law will dictate who inherits what.  (You can learn your state’s laws regarding intestate succession here.)

With young children, the court gets involved and a judge must name a guardian (of the child/children, not of the galaxy).  The judge gathers all available information and appoints a guardian for the minor children – possibly someone you would have selected, but possibly not.

Name Your Guardian

At least one survey concluded that half of Americans with children have no will.  The bottom line is: if you are a parent of minor children, you need to name a guardian – which means you need a proper estate plan consisting of at least a will, if not also a living trust.

It took my wife and me three years after our first son was born to finally see an estate planning attorney.  New parents should seek out an estate planning attorney as soon as possible and have an estate plan drafted so that they can name a guardian for minor children.

Otherwise, you are leaving the guardianship of your minor children – and, very possibly, the fate of the galaxy itself – to the court.

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