Presented by: Bradford & Holliman, Estate Planning, www.bradfordholliman.com
Parenthood is an education with no graduation date. Have you told your child, “I don’t care how old you are, you’ll always be my baby!” Parenthood impacts your estate plan in different ways as your child grows up.
Parenthood is a big reason estate plans should be reviewed every three to five years. One couple with two sons was reviewing their five-year-old wills and realized that the three couples designated as guardians and backup guardians were no longer the best options. Two couples had divorced, and the wife in one couple had died.
Early on, your estate plan should clearly designate a guardian and a backup guardian in case both parents die in an accident. With fewer siblings and siblings who live far away, many parents do not have close family nearby. Consider what guardian could comfort your children and minimize the upheaval to their lives. Do you want the same person to handle their finances as well as their day-to-day lives? Never designate someone to be the guardian of your minor child without talking it over with them in great detail. It’s a huge responsibility that can last a lifetime.
Designated guardians are not your executors. Often a checks-and-balances approach can provide a multi-talented team to support your children.
As your children mature, consider adjusting your estate plan to include specific types of trusts. A child may grow up to be a spendthrift, develop chronic health issues such as drugs or alcoholism, or have a rocky marriage that may not last.
Many couples designate each other as their executors, but competent adult children can assume new roles in your estate plan. You are the best judge of their abilities to be equitable to siblings and avoid family arguments while settling your estate. At this stage, you should talk with all of your children to explain why certain children are designated as power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, executor, or other roles. It is always better for them to hear your plans “from the horse’s mouth” to avoid issues after you’re gone.
Now consider grandparenthood. You can designate estate funds to cover educational expenses or to set inheritances at certain ages for your grandchildren.
No matter where you are on the parenthood journey, work closely with a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan is current based on those “babies,” no matter how old they are.
-Melanie B. Holliman, JD
Partner, Bradford & Holliman
Estate Planning, Trusts, & Special Needs
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