Downs Law Firm, P.C.
Downs Law Firm, P.C.
While everyone from brand new parents to great grandparents can benefit from the advice of a competent estate planning lawyer, frequently the individuals making sure that their affairs are in order, are those in their golden years. They have a common concern: what about their grandbabies?
While there are differing reasons for this, ranging from drug use or inability to care for the child, various legal issues arise when grandparents are the primary caretakers.
What would happen with your kids, should something happen to you? It’s a question that most parents don’t like to think about.
Preparing a will is one of the most important steps a parent can take to protect their family.
Waiting for the perfect answer often leads to no answer at all Picking a Guardian for your children is no picnic. I am an estate planning attorney and have three children. They are now thankfully adults, and I am very proud of them. I am also one of eight children. My wife is one of 10 children. When our children were young, we had a great deal of difficulty trying to figure out who would be the best choice for guardian if we both died. We had many candidates to choose from in our siblings alone. In my 36 years of advising young parents on this topic, I find it is often an emotionally charged “Bone of contention.” I carried a draft will in my briefcase for longer than I care to admit because we could not resolve this problem. Every time the topic came up it was an unpleasant conversation, one that was best left unresolved. That is a good way to not pick a guardian: Avoid the touchy subject altogether. Eventually, we finally figured out that although we couldn’t agree on who should be named the guardian, we could easily agree on who shouldn’t be, which left a short list. I find that this is almost always the case. A couple may not agree on who should be first and who should be second as guardian, but they can usually agree on who should be on the list and who shouldn’t. Making sure that the right people only are involved in the conversation is an important parental act. Imagine for a moment that you have died, and are now a spirit in the room, watching all the people who think that they are supposed to be guardian vying to be appointed. Exactly how would that go? Wouldn’t it be better to have only the people on the short list be in the conversation? We were able to compromise once we got there. It also often helpful to have a third party, such as an estate planning attorney, put in their two cents. Complex issues of ego and family pride that burden the parents are not baggage of the lawyer, at least not for your family. What if your child was at school and needed a ride home, but neither parent was available? Having no one handle the pick up would not seem a viable option, right? What if you were never going to be there? You need an answer to the critical question of “Who raises your child?”: it’s a paramount parental duty. An imperfect plan would be far better than none at all. Waiting for an answer to arrive which “rings true” is another problem. The only answer that rings true is that you are there to see your child grow to adulthood, as I have had the good fortune to experience. Anything short of that won’t seem right. Deciding is great, but not enough. Reducing your choice of a guardian to writing in your Last Will
The legal issues that may surround a health problem, can go from bad to worse if you are not protected by legal documents expressing your wishes, according to the New Jersey Herald in “The importance of putting plans in writing.” The message hits home especially hard, recently with two different instances. First, a Father wanted is child to receive a house and did his own invalid “amendment” to his will. In a second instance, a person wanted is caretaker to receive assets and expressed that through an unsigned email. Lack of legal documents at these times has made difficult situations even worse. Although discussing concepts like end-of-life care can be challenging, all adults do need to have specific plans in place, even if their estate plan is basic: a last will and testament, a living will and a power of attorney. It is never to early to put these documents into place. If you have a college student or other child who is 18 years or older, he or she should at least have a designated power of attorney and a medical directive, in case they are unable to manage their own affairs or make healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, many people still think estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to pay less taxes. Tax planning can help lighten tax liability for some. However, there are far more important reasons to do estate planning. The main reason for estate planning is to set down expectations and wishes, while you are alive and after you pass. An estate planning attorney will help review the benefits of having a power of attorney and a healthcare directive. They can help, if the situation occurs where your loved ones have to make decisions for you. The amount of time, expense and frustration of going through a guardianship process can be avoided, if these items are in place. An estate planning attorney can also help you with completing beneficiary forms for non-probate assets, preparing a funeral plan, planning a personal property memorandum and discussing elder care and planning for incapacity. Making decisions in advance regarding who will care for minor children, if young parents cannot and who will be the person’s executor and handle all the details of their estate, are all necessary. Many couples choose joint ownership and consider that their estate planning. However, that’s not enough. What happens when the last “surviving” joint owner passes? There are many other issues that need to be addressed. An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances. Reference: New Jersey Herald (Aug. 22, 2018) “The importance of putting plans in writing”