Well, this issue is so much bigger than how much money Uncle Sam gets to take from an estate. You see, when I think about what frightens parents most, seeing their children in a vulnerable position pretty much tops the list–whether it’s at home, at the pool, or any other place in public.
What exacerbates this further is knowing the fear which children themselves feel when they are surrounded by people they don’t know, and aren’t sure what to expect from what their parents have set up for them.
Put the following steps into place, and you’ll eliminate at least some of these dangers…
#1: Identify a Clear Plan for the Care of your Children.
Did you know that 74% of parents have not named guardians? Worse, of the 26% who have, most have made 1 of 6 common mistakes that leave their kids at risk.
When you name short AND long-term guardians for the care of your children, you must give clear guidance to your caregiver and everyone you’ve named to care for your children, in written form. Just by naming these guardians (both short and long-term), your children never have to be put in a situation in which they would be taken out of your home and into the hands of strangers if something happens to you.
An even better step, if your children are old enough for this discussion, is to tell them this plan. Don’t make a big deal of it…you don’t want to frighten your kids at the prospect of your loss. But they’ll feel better knowing that you’ve selected people they can trust and love to care for them well.
#2: Properly Document Your Decisions
Parents often have discussed and agreed upon a guardian for their children and have even made their wishes known to their families; however, not documenting these decisions can result in your wishes not being followed when it really is too late.
You see, if you don’t communicate your wishes in a legally-binding document, you are placing your children in a “free for all”. Without clear legal guidance, every family member has equal priority of guardianship and the decision about the care of your children will be left in the hands of a broken-down court system and some judge who doesn’t know you or your kids.
This legal documentation is particularly important if you intend for a friend to care for your children, as courts will almost always choose a family member over a friend.
Also, don’t forget to leave behind specific guidance about how you want your children raised. Education decisions, healthcare decisions, discipline decisions … these are all things you care a lot about and would want made consistent with your opinions for how your kids are raised.
#3: Don’t Neglect Their Financial Future
Sure, there’s different schools of thought on this issue. Some parents don’t want to overwhelm their children with too much in their bank accounts at once, which is understandable.
But, regardless of how you structure this provision, providing sufficient financial resources for your children’s care is your responsibility. And, as a responsible parent, you must take steps to protect what your children will receive … whether it’s through life insurance, savings or some other means.
To do so, establish a living trust, to receive any life insurance benefits your children would receive, so that they don’t get access to your assets at the age of 18; and make sure your living trust holds on to the title to any assets that would go through probate in the event of your death. And, if your estate is large enough, you will want to plan to avoid estate taxes as well.
All of these issues are things we routinely secure on behalf of our clients. If you haven’t yet set any of these items into place, call us right away (847-243-3600) or respond to this blog, and we’ll either help you, or connect you with someone who can.
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