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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In the first part of this series, we discussed a unique planning tool known as a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust. Here we explain the benefits of these trusts in further detail.
While most lawyers will advise you to distribute the assets you’re leaving to your kids outright at specific ages and stages, based on when you think they will be mature enough to handle an inheritance, there is a much better choice for safeguarding your family wealth.
A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust is a unique estate planning vehicle that’s specifically designed to protect your children’s inheritance from unfortunate life events such as divorce, debt, illness, and accidents. At the same time, you can give your children the ability to access and invest their inheritance, while retaining airtight asset protection for their entire lives.
Last week, we discussed how Lifetime Asset Protection Trusts differ from the standard way that most revocable living trusts and wills distribute assets to beneficiaries. Today, we’ll look at the Trustee’s role in the process and how these unique trusts can teach your kids to manage and grow their inheritance, so it can support your children to become wealth creators and enrich future generations.
Total discretion for the Trustee offers airtight asset protection
As mentioned last week, most trusts require the Trustee to distribute assets to beneficiaries in a structured way, such as at certain ages or stages. Other times, a Trustee is required to distribute assets only for specific purposes, such as for the beneficiary’s “health, education, maintenance, and support,” also known as the “HEMS” standard.
We referenced this planning tool in the context of how it could have protected Clare Bronfman, the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Seagram’s fortune, who was manipulated into blowing much of her $200 million inheritance by financing the cult-like group known as Nxivm.
Yet Clare’s case was quite extreme in terms of both the amount of her inheritance and the circumstances that wiped out her wealth. Though an LAPT would have almost undoubtedly protected both her and her family’s fortune, this planning vehicle can benefit families with far less wealth than Clare’s—and offer asset protection from far less outlandish threats.
Indeed, LAPTs are primarily designed to protect your loved ones and their inheritance from much more common threats, such as divorce, serious debt, devastating illness, and unfortunate accidents. At the same time, LAPTs can provide your heirs with a unique educational opportunity in which they gain valuable experience in managing and growing their inheritance while enjoying airtight asset protection.
To demonstrate how LAPTs can provide protection to families of all asset profiles, here we’ll describe another true story involving a tragic—yet much more relatable—life scenario. While the following events are entirely true, the individual’s name has been changed for privacy protection.
The flooded penthouse
Eric was staying at a friend's apartment in New York City. The apartment was the penthouse of the building, and Eric decided to run himself a bath. While the bath was running, another friend called and invited Eric to go out with him, which he did.
At about 2 a.m., Eric came back to the apartment and discovered he made a huge mistake and left the bath running when he left the apartment. The resulting flood caused more than $400,000 in damage to the apartment and the one below it.
While there was insurance to cover the damage, the insurance company sued Eric for what's known as "subrogation,” meaning the company sought to collect the $400,000 they paid out to repair the damage Eric caused to the property.
But without taking the proper precautions, the wealth you pass on is at serious risk of being accidentally lost or squandered. In some instances, an inheritance can even wind up doing your kids more harm than good.
Creating a will or a revocable living trust offers some protection, but in most cases, you’ll be guided to distribute assets through your will or trust to your children at specific ages and stages, such as one-third at age 25, half the balance at 30, and the rest at 35.
If you’ve created estate planning documents, check to see if this is how your will or trust leaves assets to your children. If so, you may not have been told about another option that can give your children access, control, and airtight asset protection for whatever assets they inherit from you.
In our planning process, we always offer parents the option of creating a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust for your children’s inheritance. A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust safeguards the inheritance from being lost to common life events, such as divorce, serious illness, lawsuits, or even bankruptcy.
But that’s not all they do.
Indeed, the best part of these trusts is that they offer you—and your kids—the best of both worlds: airtight asset protection AND use and control of the inheritance. What’s more, you can even use the trust to incentivize your children to invest and grow their inheritance.
And as this ugly drama plays out in the courtroom and tabloids, it highlights the single-most costly estate-planning mistake a parent can make.
Hussle, 34, whose given name was Ermias Ashgedom, was gunned down outside his South Los Angeles clothing store in March. His alleged killer, Eric Holder, was arrested and indicted for murder a few days later. The rapper’s death is particularly tragic, as his debut album, Victory Lap, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award.
Yet even more tragic is what’s happening to Hussle’s kids. Because Hussle never named legal guardians, the decision of who will raise his two children—daughter Emani, 10, and son Kross, 2—is now up to the court. And this mistake is already having terrible consequences.
In addition to not naming guardians for his kids, Hussle also failed to create a will, which makes their guardianship even more contentious. Hussle’s estate is estimated to be worth $2 million, and under California law, in the absence of a will, that money is to be split equally between his two kids.
Given that both children are minors, however, they’re ineligible to access their inheritance until they reach the age of majority. This means that whoever ultimately wins guardianship of the children will likely gain control over their money as well.
Caught in the middle
Guardianship of Hussle’s son Kross, while still undecided, is currently not a source of conflict. Kross’s mother is actress Lauren London, who was Hussle’s longtime girlfriend, and Kross had been living with London at the time of his father’s death. She petitioned the court for her son’s guardianship, and there’s little doubt she’ll get it.
Estate planning, in particular, is one arena where these new rights and benefits are readily apparent.
With marriage equality, same-gender couples no longer have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for creative estate-planning workarounds just to achieve similar protections offered to opposite-gender couples. Yet same-gender couples continue to face unique planning challenges.
Because you may have family members who remain opposed to the validity of your marriage, same-gender couples’ estate plans are often more vulnerable to dispute and even sabotage by unsupportive relatives. This could mean that family members are more likely to contest your wishes, or it might entail 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 spouse to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated by accident or illness.
While the planning vehicles available to same-gender and opposite-gender married couples are generally the same, there are a few unique considerations those in same-gender marriages ought to be aware of.
Here are three of the most important things to keep in mind.