Your estate plan must safeguard your children, who are counting on you to ensure that they will always be taken care of by the people you want, in a way you want, no matter what happens.
At Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory, we are very passionate about planning for the well-being and care of the children you love. Over the years, we have developed an expertise for advance planning for the care of children in the event of the death of one or both parents. Without this advance legal planning, unthinkable events can (and do) take place:
Ø Your children could be placed into the care of the California Department of Social Services ... even if you have a will in place ... and even if you have a living trust! (Likely this circumstance would be temporary, but you never want your children in the care of strangers - not even for a minute.)
Ø Your children could be put into the custody and care of someone you would never choose, like the one family member who may have good intentions, but you don't want raising your kids!
Ø A judge, who doesn't know you or your family, will decide who will raise your kids, even if it is the last person you would ever want.
Ø A long and nasty custody fight could ensure or there might be a challenge to the guardians you have designated.
Ø Up to 5% of the value of your gross assets could be lost to court costs and other unnecessary fees through the probate process that can tie up your assets for years and deprive your kids of the resources they need.
Ø Unscrupulous people can take advantage of children when they turn 18 and get a check for whatever assets are left.
With advance legal planning, these problems and more can be avoided. A majority of estate planning attorneys do not address these issues. They do not plan from a parent's perspective and they do not have the expertise to do a comprehensive job.
Yes, these occurrences scare us, too! That is why we offer a Kids Protection Plan® with every estate plan we do for families with minor children.
Our Kids Protection Plan® includes a specific set of instructions, legal documents, and an ID card for your wallet. If you are in an accident, your Kids Protection Plan will help to make sure your children are never taken into the custody of Child Protective Services or anyone else you would not want. These clear instructions inform the Police and ensure your children will be raised by people you have selected.
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If your child has special needs, you must understand exactly what’s necessary to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of your child, in the event of your own eventual death or potential incapacity.
When creating your estate plan, there are two major considerations for you to focus on: 1) Who would care for your child if and when you cannot (also known as guardianship), and 2) How will your child’s financial needs be met when you are not there to meet them.
Naming Legal Guardians for a Lifetime Care
The first and most critical step in ensuring the future well-being of your child with special needs is to name both short and long-term legal guardians to take custody of and care for your child in the event of your death or incapacity. And as you well know, if your child will never become fully capable of independently caring for him or herself, your parenting responsibilities will continue long after your child reaches adulthood.
Although same-gender marriage is legally recognized in all 50 states, long-held prejudice at both the political and family level continues to create complications for both married and unmarried same-gender couples. Indeed, while the federal government recognizes same-gender marriage, there are plenty of cities, businesses, and people who still refuse to recognize these unions. Moreover, a recent survey found that roughly four of every 10 LGBTQ adults said that they have been rejected by a family member because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As we discussed last week in part one, such discrimination can create unique estate planning challenges, and regardless of your marriage status, if you are an LGTBQ adult in a committed partnership, you should be aware of several issues that can affect your planning strategies. Specifically, we discussed how relying on a will alone may not provide sufficient protection for your partner/spouse, and we explained why incapacity planning is particularly crucial if you want your partner/spouse to have a say in your medical treatment and the ability to access and manage your assets in the event you are hit with a debilitating illness or injury.
Although same-gender marriage is legally recognized in all 50 states, long-held prejudice at both the political and family levels continues to create complications for both married and unmarried same-gender couples. For example, suppose you have family members who are opposed to your marriage. In that case, your estate plan may be more likely to be disputed or even sabotaged by unsupportive relatives. This could mean that family members are more likely to contest your wishes, or it might result in custody battles over non-biological children in the event of the biological parent's death.
Unsupportive family members may even try to block the ability of your partner to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated by accident or illness. Even worse, your family members could try to kick your partner out of a shared home if you are in an accident or fall ill, or they may even block your partner from seeing you if you require hospitalization.
Graduating high school is a significant accomplishment. However, it comes with serious responsibilities that your child probably isn't thinking much about right now. Once your child turns 18, they become a legal adult, and specific areas of their lives that were once under your control will be solely their responsibility.
While your child will now be a legal adult, you still have essential parental duties. Yet, if you don't support your child to step into adulthood with legal documents to help both of you, it can be challenging and costly for you to help them in the event of an emergency.
For instance, should your child get into a severe car accident and require hospitalization, you would no longer have the automatic authority to make decisions about his or her medical treatment or handle their financial matters. In fact, without legal documentation, you wouldn't even be able to access his or her medical records or bank accounts without a court order.
And even after you become an adult, that struggle for the perfect Father’s Day gift often continues, albeit in a slightly different way. When it comes to expressing your love and appreciation for everything Dad has done, more “stuff” doesn’t cut it.
If your father is like most, he’d tell you that the greatest gift you could give him would be for you to abide by the values and principles he taught you and share them with your children.
We may go to great lengths to protect and pass on our family’s financial wealth. Still, very few of us take the time to even document, much less preserve, our family’s legacy. The stories, values, insights, and life lessons of our parents, grandparents, and those who came before them— are typically lost forever when a beloved father figure passes away.