The Real Cost To Your Family: Having No Estate Plan At All
This is a continuation of the discussion of the true costs and consequences of failed estate planning. Here I discuss a few of the most common—and costly—planning mistakes I encounter with clients. If this article exposes any potential gaps or weak spots in your plan, meet with me to learn how to properly address them.
Three Tips for Talking About Your Estate Plan During the Holidays
Christmas is right around the corner, bringing the joyous season of gathering with family and loved ones into full-swing. It is the time to slow down, get caught up with loved ones, and enjoy the family and experience quality time around the dinner table. It is also a great idea to take this opportunity to review your estate plan and talk about the topic with your loved ones.
When Something is NOT Better Than Nothing—Part 2
Last week, I shared the first part of this series discussing the hidden dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. In part two, I cover one of the greatest risks posed by DIY documents.
You might think you can save time and money by using do-it-yourself estate planning documents you find online. You’re probably anxious to check estate planning off your life’s to-do list, and these forms offer a seemingly quick and inexpensive way to handle this important task.
Big “Life Changes” Often Mean Big “Estate Plan Changes”
Estate planning must be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that your plan still accomplishes your goals and objectives and will work the way you want it to at incapacity and at death.
Should your child’s guardian and trustee be the same person?
When it comes to estate planning, who will be ultimately in charge of your minor child is an important decision that requires consideration of many factors.
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
While our great nation celebrated its independence yesterday on July 4th, you can rest assured that you too can declare independence for your family — from court interference. Life can be unpredictable. Whether it is a financial issue, the birth or adoption of a child, sickness or incapacity, it is important to be prepared with proper estate planning. In fact, failure to put together a comprehensive estate plan can leave you and your loved ones at the mercy of the court when it comes to distributing assets or caring for a minor or sick family member.
Create a Special Needs Trust to Protect the Financial Future of Your Child with Special Needs
It always surprises me to hear parents who have a child with special needs tell me that they were not aware of what they needed to do to ensure the future well-being and care of their child is properly handled. Or sometimes, they tell me they didn’t know they needed to do anything at all.
If that’s you, and you have a child with special needs at home, this article is for you. And if you have friends or family who have a child with special needs, please share this article with them.
Every parent who has a child with special needs must understand what’s needed to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of their child, if and when something happens to them.
6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 2
Selecting and naming the right guardians for minor children in the event that something happens to you is a critical component of your estate plan. Last week I’ve outlined some basic steps to select and name a legal guardian in Part One of this two part series. Regardless of whether you own any other assets or wealth, it’s vital to complete this process immediately, so you know that who you care about most—your kids—will be cared for the way you want, no matter what. While it’s rare for something to happen to both parents of a minor child, it does occur, and the consequences are simply too severe to not take a few simple steps to select and legally name guardians the right way. Even if you don’t have any minor children at home, please consider sharing this article with any friends or family who do—it’s that important!
6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 1
One of your most important responsibilities as a parent is to select and legally document guardians for your children. This doesn’t mean just naming godparents or trusting the grandparents will step in if necessary. It means consciously deciding who would raise your children if you cannot. And then it means legally documenting your choices and making sure the people you’ve chosen know what to do if they’re ever called upon.
However, most people have no idea how to even start this process, much less create a legally binding plan. Because of this, many parents simply never get around to doing it. And those who do often make one of several common mistakes—even if they’ve worked with an Attorney. Why? Because most lawyers haven’t been trained properly to help parents with this vital issue.
As a result, unless you’ve worked with me or another trained Personal Family Lawyer®, it’s likely your children are extremely vulnerable to being taken out of your home and placed in the care of strangers. This might be temporary, while the authorities figure out what to do, or they could end up being raised to adulthood by someone you’d never choose.
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Consider this story. Beth’s divorce from her husband was recently finalized. Her most valuable assets are her retirement plan at work and her life insurance policy. She updated the beneficiary designations on both to be her two minor children. She did not want her ex-husband to receive the money.
Beth passes away one year after her divorce. Her children are still minors, so the retirement plan and insurance company require an adult to be appointed to receive the inheritance Beth left behind. Who does the court presumptively look to serve as the caretaker of this money? Beth’s ex-husband who is now the only living parent of the children. (In some states, this caretaker of the money is called a guardian, whereas in others it is the conservator. The title does not matter as much as the role, which is to manage the funds on behalf of a minor, since the minor is not legally able to handle significant assets or money.)
Sadly, stories like Beth’s are all too familiar for the loved ones of divorced people who do not make effective use of the estate planning tools. Naming a beneficiary for retirement benefits or life insurance, or having a Will can be a good start. However, the complexities of relationships, post-divorce, often render these basic tools inadequate. Luckily, there is a way to protect and control your children’s inheritance fully.