Thursday, December 15, 2011

Estate Planning For Women (And the Men Who Love Them)

A fellow attorney (and award-winning journalist) Deborah Jacobs authored the book, “Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide”.  In her recent Forbes article titled “Estate Planning for Women (And the Men who Love Them)” she indicated the below question is a question every financially savvy woman should be able to answer. 

Question #4

Who would raise your children?

Few prospects are more wrenching than the possibility that young children will be orphaned. Often, parents put off writing a will because this particular thought is unbearable or couples cannot agree on a potential guardian. Some assume--incorrectly--that it is enough just to ask a relative or trusted friend to step in if the need arises.

But not formalizing the arrangements and doing some estate planning along the way could leave your children in a vacuum. For example, let's say you are a single or surviving parent--in this group too, women predominate. If you do not have a written document outlining your wishes, a court usually decides who will fill your shoes. A custody battle might erupt or, awful as it sounds, no one may want your children. And without financial planning, there may not be enough money for your child's support.

When choosing a guardian, people typically look first to relatives, starting with their own siblings--the child's aunts and uncles. A second choice for some people is their own parents, if they are young enough. Even if certain family members seem like obvious candidates, take into account all the factors involved. Key questions to ask: Am I comfortable with the individual's lifestyle and values? Would my child have to relocate? Can the prospective guardian incorporate my children into his or her household? If I have more than one child, would the guardian be able to keep them together? Does my child already have a relationship and a good rapport with the person?

Here too, you can build in checks and balances--by putting a different person in charge of the money you leave for your child's support. You can name a guardian for the funds, or put them into a trust and designate a trustee to spend the money on your child's behalf. While financial guardianships are a matter of state law and require court supervision in some states, trusts are a private matter. A trust also gives you much more say over how the money is spent.

Questions like this one can often trigger even more questions in your mind.  Please accept my invitation to schedule a meeting where we can discuss this topic and others that might be relevant to your estate planning.  Give my office a call to set a meeting.


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