Estate Planning Conundrum: What to do when a beneficiary has a substance abuse problem

In my 25 years of working with families on their estate plans, many parents have raised the issue of what to do when a child or grandchild struggles with substance abuse. With the recent death of Whitney Houston and her connection to substance abuse, it reminds me of what this means during the estate planning process. These parents are heartbroken and need guidance on how to address this difficult situation in their estate planning documents. Substance abuse – whether it’s alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal narcotics – affects many of the families we advise. As a result, we developed a list of questions for families to consider when designing their estate plan:

  1. Has the beneficiary ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?
  2. Is the beneficiary having a particularly hard time – is divorce on the horizon? Has he lost his business? Does he gamble?
  3. What is his relationship with other family members?
  4. Who does he trust?
  5. Who is giving him money?
  6. Is he eligible for government assistance?
  7. Who is paying his health insurance?
  8. Is he employed? For how long? What types of jobs?
  9. Has he ever been treated for his addiction?
  10. Is he a member of Alcoholics Anonymous or a similar organization?
  11. Do these issues run in the family?
  12. Has there been a family intervention?
  13. Is he open to counseling? Has this topic been addressed?
  14. Where is he living? Can he live alone?

I have noticed that substance abuse often masks other underlying mental health issues, including undiagnosed or untreated schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. That these issues are often part of a larger family pattern makes having the discussion much more difficult, but much more essential.

Families in Conflict

An addicted child may have already taken a significant emotional, physical, and financial toll on the entire family. Parents who find it difficult to handle this child become increasingly disturbed when they consider who would step in if they are unable or unavailable. This helplessness often leads to anger, frustration, and conflict.

One parent may want to cut off the beneficiary while the other parent cannot consider doing so. One parent may want to kick the child out of the home, while the other parent believes that doing so would make matters worse. These conflicts add stress to their marriage and the family at large.

Grandparents may have different opinions than the parents. Siblings may already be resentful of their addicted sister or brother. In many families, the troubled child has already received significant emotional and financial assistance. His troubles have already taken center stage at the dinner table. His presence in the home and attitude toward the family may have already created constant disruption.

Estate Planning Tools and Options

As complex and emotional as these issues are, families must address them. And they will welcome having an impartial, yet compassionate advisor to provide guidance, suggestions, and choices.

One planning tool for parents to immediately consider is for that child to designate them as the agent under his health care proxy and his attorney in fact under the durable power of attorney. Without these documents, HIPPA will prohibit the parents from being involved with his treatment. Also, these documents give parents legal access to his health and financial records, which could be extremely important if it becomes necessary to apply for government benefits.

Inevitably, an estate planning discussion will include disinheritance. In my experience, this is a subject frequently discussed and rarely implemented. No matter how angry and frustrated they are, parents still want to provide some sort of safety net for their child.

This pressure to disinherit the troubled child may come from the sense that he has already taken more than his fair share of the family’s resources, possibly at the expense of the other, more responsible children. As the family’s advisor, however, you should ask the parents:

  • If you are not here, how will the child be cared for with no existing financial resources?
  • Who will be responsible?
  • Who will he call?
  • Will disinheriting him place a financial burden on your other children, or will they be able to walk away?

Establishing a Trust

Rather than disinheriting him, a common solution is to establish a trust that includes him as a permissible beneficiary – or is only for his benefit during his lifetime. The hard decision, however, is who will serve as trustee after both parents die. Parents are understandably reluctant to place that burden on their other children or on other relatives.

If there are significant assets, then choosing a corporate trustee is the simple choice. The other children or trusted friends or advisors can then have the right to remove or replace that trustee during the trust duration. If there are not sufficient assets to warrant a corporate trustee, then the parents must identify friends or trusted advisors – who should be paid for their services. The trustee should review the trust document to ensure that he has the right to resign from his office, and understand the mechanism for subsequent trustee appointments. The document should provide the trustee with the authority to expend funds for purposes such as counseling, detectives, drug testing, and private security.

Trust Terms and Provisions

After deciding on the line of succession and identifying who will operate the trust, parents need to focus on the various purposes for which the trustee may or may not distribute income and/or principal from the trust to the beneficiary.

If the beneficiary is likely to require government assistance, then the terms of the trust must contemplate that. The trust document may also give the trustee authority to withhold payments if deemed advisable. This is often preferable to asking that trustee to determine whether a beneficiary is drug-free. Those suffering from substance abuse can be clever, and making such a determination is tricky.

Rather than withholding payments, another approach is to provide the beneficiary with incentives for staying clean. The trustee could provide additional distributions if the child holds a full-time job or regularly attends  counseling sessions. Making the distribution provisions restrictive and under the trustee’s sole control can help protect those assets from the troubled child’s creditors, or from any of the many “friends” and acquaintances who might take advantage of him if they believe there is money in his pocket.

Many parents have a sense of shame or denial, and may rightly choose not to make these troubles public, or put them in a trust document that others can access. I encourage parents to write an annual side letter to the trustee that describes their observations and offers details that they are reluctant to share while living. This letter could be placed in a sealed envelope, kept with the original estate planning documents, and updated/revised as circumstances change. It can be comforting to the trustee to understand more about the parents’ goals and objectives from their own voice.

Planning for the beneficiary with a substance abuse issue is complex and can have consequences that affect the entire family. Remind parents that life is a movie, not a snapshot. A plan created now should be good enough to handle today’s circumstances, yet flexible enough to contemplate the unknown. Encourage parents who are dealing with this difficult situation to revisit their plan every few years as circumstances change and evolve.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit, http://www.patriciaannino.com.

Polo club founder adopts his 42-year-old girlfriend

A rather unique attempt at protecting assets in a lawsuit. Thought you might find it interesting. What do you think of Mr. Goodman’s solution?  Leave your comments below.

By Michael Inbar

A wealthy Florida man has set off a firestorm by legally adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend as he prepares for a potentially costly wrongful death suit.

John Goodman, 49, founder of the Tony International Polo Club in Wellington, Fla., was involved in a crash on Feb. 12, 2010 that killed 23-year-old Scott Patrick Wilson. Local police say Goodman ran a stop sign while driving with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit in Florida.

While Goodman faces criminal charges of DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident that carry a possible 30-year prison term in a trial set for March 6, he also faces a civil suit from William and Lili Wilson over the death of their son. That trial is set to begin March 27.

In recently released court documents, the Wilsons learned that Goodman had legally adopted his girlfriend Heather Hutchins in October. Attorneys for the Wilsons say it was a blatant move to protect his assets.

“It cannot go unrecognized that [Goodman] chose to adopt his 42-year-old girlfriend as opposed to a needy child,” The Palm Beach Post newspaper quoted family attorney Scott Smith as saying.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley had previously ruled a trust fund Goodman had established for his two minor children could not be considered an asset in any court-rewarded damages to the Wilson family. Now, with Hutchins also considered Goodman’s daughter, she is entitled to one-third of the trust fund, and as an adult over 35 she can begin drawing money from the fund immediately.

Judge Kelley was critical of Goodman’s move in his order granting the Wilson family the right to information regarding the adoption. Kelley said the adoption “border(s) on the surreal,” The Palm Beach Post reported.

“The Court cannot ignore reality or the practical impact of what Mr. Goodman has now done,” Judge Kelley wrote. “The Defendant has effectively diverted a significant portion of the assets of the children’s trust to a person with whom he is intimately involved at a time when his personal assets are largely at risk in this case.”

While Goodman’s move has tongues wagging on the society scene in south Florida, a state adoption expert told WPEC-TV in West Palm Beach that Goodman adopting his girlfriend may not be strictly legal.

“Adoption means the act of creating the legal relationship between parent and child where it did not exist,” adoption attorney Charlotte Danciu told the station.

“Unless you intend to create the parent-child relationship, you are violating the letter of the law.”

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently released an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  To download Annino’s FREE eBook, Estate Planning 101 visit, http://www.patriciaannino.com.

New Risks to Family Cohesiveness: Damage to the Family Reputation or Family Brand

In the area of family cohesiveness, reputation or the family brand is at risk. Traditionally this risk was triggered by a scandal that leaked out to the press. The new way this risk is triggered is through social media.

To date, Facebook has approximately 500 million users and on any given day 50% of those users are online. Many of our children and grandchildren are spending an increasing amount of time living, working and playing online- sometimes with the wrong people.

One click of the button, one Facebook page or one YouTube vignette can go viral instantly and affect the family’s reputation and brand. It can be used in divorce actions, custody matters and employment decisions. Once viral, it is hard to eradicate. Social media is discoverable in litigation. Social networking sites are an investigative tool that gives the lawyers information that will lead to the evidence they need to present in a trial. Information gathered from social network can be used to attack credibility, discover relevant character evidence, dispute damages, determine or rebut state of mind and identify witnesses.

Facebook has been used to show the teenage driver who killed her best friend in a car accident was a party girl who drank heavily. Posts and pictures of her in many party situations abounded.

In divorce and child custody cases investigators look to confessions-things that people have done, places they have been and people they have had their children around.  People post revealing pictures and video on the Internet they would never share in the day to day world.

As an example there is a Facebook group entitled, “I hate my Ex???”. The group was created for “everyone who hates their ex-boyfriends or girlfriends or ex-husband or ex-wife.” Actual posts on that Facebook page include the following:

“I hate my ex husband wish he wasn’t the father of my kid so he could be out of my life for good!!!”

“My daughter hates my ex, her father, and the courts say she has to visit him. He gets her all this week for vacation.”

“My ex should die a slow painful death for what he put us through.”

“I hope my ex gets herpes.”

In Georgia, the Court of Appeals reviewed posts such as those (High v. High, 389 S.E.2d 690 (2010)) and admitted into evidence posts on the issue of the father’s suitability to have custody of the minor children.  The court commented that it was disturbed by the statements contained in the father’s MySpace page where he wrote “I’m actually a little sorry for [mother] just because losing her job affects my children. Well, maybe not. Now I’m financially more than able to support [the kids] if [mother] gets out of the way or is pushed out.” Relying on these posts the Court observed the father’s hostility, animosity and anger towards the mother and awarded the mother sole custody.

In Ohio, The Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision to consider text and picture posts on a mother’s MySpace page (Williams v. Gonzales, 2010 WL 3365741). The maternal grandmother filed a third party motion to modify custody of the mother’s children. The grandmother put forth evidence that the mother maintained a MySpace page under the name “Sexy Nurse Williams”. The mother posted pictures of her children which one expert called an “oral aura” in a slideshow with two sexually explicit graphics. The grandmother’s expert on social media and expert on risks to children regarding sexual matters, testified the pictures were displayed in a “sexualized manner” and created a “pedophile’s dream.” When these facts were taken into consideration the trial court found that a change of circumstances had occurred and modified the custody order.

In Indiana the Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to consider the MySpace posts of one mother who mocked her children and their allegations that the mother’s boyfriend has been physically abusive to them. (In the matter of the Paternity of P.R. and A.R. 2010 WL 538476). The father petitioned the court to modify custody and support. The court, after reviewing the mother’s MySpace page and the allegations she made that mocked her own children for statements they made about her boyfriend who had one felony conviction for battery on a minor under the age of fourteen, awarded sole custody to the father.

With sites such as Facebook and MySpace the user can instantly download pictures and videos. People now have the ability to do that with themselves and even scarier, others have the ability to post that information about you and put them on their profiles without your knowledge.

As an example, the Ohio Court of Appeals in In re N.F. (2009 WL 1798146) the mother’s boyfriend (an exotic dancer) posted pornographic pictures on the mother’s MySpace page. These pictures were easily accessible. The court took custody away from the mother, ruling that even though she had demonstrated the ability to care for her children, work two jobs, provide financial support and strive for her GED degree, her home and personal life was chaotic and problematic.

In Michigan, Copeland v. Mitchell (August 5, 2010 Docket No. 290381) the Court of Appeals awarded the father full custody after considering pictures of the children posted to the mother’s MySpace page showing the girls without blouses.  The Court also ordered the mother to immediately remove the pictures.

The younger generation, if not educated, is not mature enough to understand the afterlife omnipresent power of the digital era. A strong family risk management policy should include education about the dangers of social media and a morally binding decision among family members to understand the consequence of social media on the reputation of the entire family.

How are you protecting yourself and your family wealth when considering these new risks?  Share your thoughts and comments below.

 

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life.  To purchase the book visit:  http://amzn.to/hOHuEV or for more about Annino, visit: www.patriciaannino.com.

Picking Guardians for Young Children

Why it is such an estate planning obstacle!

In my 27 years of estate planning, I’ve found choosing a guardian for young children to be the most difficult decision for couples to agree on and the most common reason why they either don’t complete or keep revising their estate-planning documents. It is important that your clients start on the estate planning path sooner rather than later. As the CPA and trusted advisor you are in a prime position to begin this vital conversation and help them reach a decision.

Guardian Selection Criteria

Factors to consider in selecting guardian(s) include the maturity of the person, whether he/she has a true concern for the children’s welfare and whether he/she has the ability and time to handle the extra responsibilities. Analyze what would happen if your clients added their children to the suggested guardian’s household? Do they have children close to their own children’s ages? Do they share your clients’ religious focus, moral beliefs and overall value system? Are they willing to take on the responsibility of raising your client’s children?

Being a guardian is a legal responsibility. The guardian will decide everything from where the children live, what schools they attend, where they worship and what kind of medical care they receive.

Your clients should come to as good a decision as they can, knowing that they can always change it. But they need to make this decision now. If they put off choosing a guardian and they both die while their children are minors, anyone who is interested can ask the court to be appointed guardian. The judge will then decide, without the benefit of their input, who will do the best job of raising your client’s children. The person the judge chooses may not even be someone on their “short list” of possibilities!

Should your clients appoint a person or a couple?

Do they want to name a sister as their child’s guardian or should they name that sister and brother-in-law? There are pros and cons to either decision. If they name just one, the other may harbor resentment and never fully participate in the child’s upbringing. On the other hand, if they name both people in the couple to be guardians and the couple divorce, then the child will be part of that divorce proceeding.

Suggest to your clients that they name successor guardians, if at all possible. Their first choice may not be in the right phase of life to act as a result of divorce, disability, financial hardship or problems with their own teenagers. Having successors named makes it easier for everyone.

This is probably the most emotional decision your clients will have to make in the estate-planning process. The exercises below are designed to help your clients find the answers to the question of who they want to take over parenting responsibilities:

1. Examine Your Priorities.

The act of parenting involves many different types of activities, responsibilities, value systems and rituals, many of which are done instinctively with little analysis or introspection.

However, when considering how you want your children to be raised if you are not going to be the one raising them, you should take a long hard look at the qualities you want your substitute to bring to the role as parent and evaluate the relative importance of each of those qualities.

a) Family. How important is “keeping it in the family?” Are blood ties paramount? Do you come from a close-knit family that prides itself on bonding together in times of trouble and “being there” for its own? Do you feel that naming a relative as guardian of your children will keep them in the nest and come closest to duplicating your parenting style?

b) Finances. You will, as part of your estate planning, take steps to provide your children with enough money in case you die early, to provide the lifestyle you desire for them. Does this lifestyle match that of the guardian? Will your children be living as “poor relatives” in a wealthier guardian’s home? Or will they be able to enjoy greater material benefits than the guardian’s own children, thereby creating tensions? Is the guardian you are choosing financially stable enough to assume this new responsibility?

c) Lifestyle. City life vs. country life; staying in the same community versus moving; emphasizing outdoor sports vs. emphasizing academics; relaxed supervision vs. strict discipline: What are the lifestyle choices you have made in raising your children and how important is it to you to choose a guardian who will replicate them?

d) Love. They say no one can love you as passionately as your own parents, but some guardians will come closer than others. How important do you feel heartfelt affection is in child rearing and how important is it to you to choose a guardian you believe will offer your child unconditional love?

e) Religion. If religion has been a backbone of your parenting, can you be sure the guardian you choose will perpetuate the traditions and teachings you have inculcated? Would it bother you if the guardian you choose brings up your children in a different religious faith? How important to you is a religious match in choosing a guardian?

f) Stability. How emotionally stable is the person you are choosing to care for your children? How strong is that person’s marriage? Employment record? Position in the community? How good is that person’s health? Is age a factor?

g) Time. How needy for attention are your children and what priority do you want the raising of your children to assume in the guardian’s life? Are they workaholics? Overcommitted to community activities? Preoccupied with their problems and responsibilities?

h) Temperament. Is it important to have a mood-match in choosing a guardian and if so, do your children need a soft, loving embrace and an emotionally sensitive attitude or will it take the personality of a drill sergeant to get them to finish their homework? Do they expect outward shows of affection or cringe at them? Is the person you are considering too moody, irritable or self-absorbed to come through?

i) Values. How important are the moral, religious, social, racial and political values your clients have tried to pass on to their children and how important is it to them that the guardian shares them and continues the teaching?

2. Evaluate Your Client’s Child’s Priorities.

Your client’s guardian decision will probably need to be updated as their children grow because their needs vary greatly from one stage of life to another. For example, the nurturing adoration of a grandparent that makes a four-year old feel loved and secure may suffocate a teenager. At some ages, being able to continue living in the same neighborhood with the same friends and going to the same school is far more important than living with a beloved aunt and uncle.

Rate the relative importance of the different guardian characteristics listed above, but this time examine them in terms of what your clients see as their child’s priorities rather than their own. If your clients have more than one child, they should rate each one’s priorities separately and compare the results, searching for a compromise.

Conclusion

As your client’s decision becomes clear about their priorities and their children’s, it will be easier for them to choose guardians now and give them the peace of mind that their children are protected, no matter what happens to them.

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life.  To purchase the book visit:  http://amzn.to/hOHuEV or for more about Annino, visit: www.patriciaannino.com

 

 

Women & Money: Strategies for Age 35 – A Case Study

When Sam and Sue first approached me for advice on estate planning, they were college educated 35 year olds with two small children. They had decided Sue would be an “at home Mom” while the children were young. Sam had a solid salary – $70,000 a year and rising.

Their most important goal, at this stage, was to name guardians for their children, but they were having problems deciding who would be the best choice. Sam’s brother, Christopher, was level headed, shared their religious background and income level, and had children around the age of theirs, but Christopher’s marriage was on shaky ground and Sam and Sue did not want their children to be involved in the fallout of a divorce.

Sue’s sister, Margaret and her husband, Tom, on the other hand, lived nearby and had a strong marriage, but a smaller house than Sam and Sue and a smaller income. Sam and Sue feared adding their children to Margaret’s household would be too much of a burden.

As we talked, I explained that this is the choice that is the most difficult for young parents to make, and it is important to realize the decision is not written in stone. It can be changed at any subsequent point by a one paragraph amendment.

I also asked them to consider another dimension: Whether they wanted to name a person or a couple as guardian. If, for example, they named Christopher alone and he did get divorced, then his wife would have no legal standing in raising Sam’s and Sue’s children. But if they named Christopher alone, and he stayed married, and his wife assisted in raising their children but did not have the legal authority to make decisions, she might very well become resentful. This could put additional pressure both on their marriage and on her feelings for Sam’s and Sue’s children.

In addition to the guardian decision, I urged them to make some financial provisions – buying life insurance, for example, so that if something happened to them their children would be well provided for. I also pointed out that they could name Margaret and Tom guardians for their children and assure that Margaret and Tom had the resources to do so by making provisions in their wills and trusts that would allow the funds to be used both for their own children and for the guardian’s children.

We looked at life insurance policies as a means of providing for the family in the event of either Sam’s death or Sue’s. How much would be needed? Enough to pay off the home mortgage, and to replace Sam’s salary if he predeceased Sue and enough to pay for child care if Sue predeceased Sam. (The Social Security Administration does pay a monthly stipend to minor children of a deceased parent who has paid into the system but it is not enough to support that child in full.)

Estate planning goes hand in hand with financial planning, and a coordinated plan should cover lifetime expenses as well.

Patricia Annino

is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning. She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about. Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime. Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life. To purchase the book visit:

http://amzn.to/hOHuEV or for more about Annino, visit: HYPERLINK “http://www.patriciaannino.com/”HYPERLINK “http://www.patriciaannino.com/”www.patriciaannino.com

 

Women & Money: Picking a Guardian for Your Young Children

Who should take over parenting responsibilities for your children if you happen to die sud­denly? If you don’t plan ahead, the government will make the selection for you. This is probably the most emotional decision you will have to make in the estate planning process. The exercises below are designed to help you find the answer.

Examining Your Priorities

The act of parenting involves many different types of activities, responsibilities, value systems, and rituals… so many that we tend to do them instinctively, with little analysis or introspection.

When considering how you want your children to be raised if you are not going to be the one raising them, however, you should take a long hard look at the qualities you want your substitute to bring to the role as parent, and evaluate the relative importance of each of those qualities.

Examine the guardian characteristics listed below

  •   Family – Are blood ties paramount? Do you come from a close-knit family that prides itself on bonding together in times of trouble and “being there” for its own? Do you feel that naming a relative as guardian of your children will keep them in the nest and come closest to duplicating your parenting style? In making this decision, how important is “keeping it in the family”?
  • Finances – You will, as part of your estate planning, take steps to provide your children with enough money, in case you die early, to provide the lifestyle you desire for them. The question is: Does this lifestyle match that of the guardian? Will your children be living as “poor relatives” in a wealthier guardian’s home? Or will they be able to enjoy greater material benefits than the guardian’s own children, thereby creating tensions? Is the guardian you are choosing financially stable enough to assume this new responsibility?
  • Lifestyle – City life versus country life, staying in the same community versus mov­ing, emphasizing outdoor sports versus emphasizing academics, relaxed supervision versus strict discipline: What are the lifestyle choices you have made in raising your children, and how important is it to you to choose a guardian who will replicate them?
  • Love – They say no one can love you as passionately as your own parents, but some guardians will come closer than others. How important do you feel heartfelt affection is in child rearing, and how important is it to you to choose a guardian you believe will offer your child unconditional love?
  • Religion – If religion has been a backbone of your parenting, can you be sure the guardian you choose will perpetuate the traditions and teachings you have inculcated? Would it bother you if the guardian you choose brings up your children in a different religious faith? How important to you is a religious match in choosing a guardian?
  • Stability – How emotionally stable is the person you are choosing to care for your children? How strong is that person’s marriage? Employment record? Position in the community? How good is that person’s health? Is age a factor to be considered?

Patricia Annino is a sought after speaker and nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  Annino recently announced the release of an updated version of her successful book, Women and Money: A Practical Guide to Estate Planning to include recent changes in the laws that govern how we protect our assets during and beyond our lifetime.  Annino’s book is an exhortation, resource and trusted companion for women in all facets of life.  To purchase the book visit:  http://amzn.to/hOHuEV or for more about Annino, visit: www.patriciaannino.com

Even If You Don’t Have a Will Your Children Will Be Raised by Family Members

Myth: Your Nomination of Guardian for Your Minor Children is A Responsible Act You Must Undertake. 

If you have minor children no matter what your net worth is you need an estate plan. The place to nominate their guardian (the person who will make decisions concerning their care, upbringing and education) is your Will. If you do not take the time to designate who should serve as guardian well meaning family members and friends will come forward after your death to claim that responsibility – and they will do that out of goodness.  It is a terrible responsibility to throw the choice of who will be guardian on surviving family members – that is your responsibility. 

Raising someone else’s children is a tremendous responsibility and the choice of who should serve in that capacity takes time – typically the guardian will share your values system, religious belief and attitude towards education.  Ideally the guardian should also share your money value system – what it is ok to spend money and what it is not – making parental decisions is very subjective.  We all have our own ideas on whether or not it is appropriate to send a child to private school, summer camp, vacations, purchase of automobile, put down payment on a child’s home or pay for post graduate education.

Sitting down annually and writing a letter to the person you have selected is a wise idea

 – that letter can be maintained with your legal documents and replaced annually.  It is the guardian’s guide to your child’s personality – what to watch out for and what to protect.  When choosing a guardian, if you name a couple – your sister and brother-in-law, you must weigh the pros and cons – the pro is if the couple remains married and both have legal responsibility as guardian to make decisions then they will both feel actively involved in your child’s upbringing.  As legal guardian if there is a medical emergency on the school playground wither one of them can act.  Either one of them can attend school conferences.  The con is that if they divorce or if one of them dies the other, as legal guardian, has standing in custody matters.

Patricia Annino is a nationally recognized authority on women and estate planning.  She educates and empowers women to value themselves and their contributions in order to ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS in the world – and in so doing PROTECT THEMSELVES, those they love, and the organizations they care about.  For more visit:  www.patriciaannino.com


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