Single parents tend to work hard for their children, so it’s no wonder that those in Rochester want to protect the children they would leave behind should the adult be killed or become incapacitated. Every day it falls to the single parent to provide just about everything for his or her children, and with 13 million single parent households in the U.S., there are a whole lot of folks doing their best to provide everything their children need today. Working with a Rochester-based estate planning attorney lawyer is the right step to make sure they are also provided for in the future. The easiest way to start is with a Kids Protection Plan® and build from there.
As a single parent, your estate plan may look different from that of a married parent. In those cases, there are laws in place to ensure that both property and custody have a means of passing to the surviving spouse. In your case, however, the courts would determine your next of kin and disperse your property, as well as appoint a guardian, based on New York State state laws. While it’s great that there are laws like this to rely on when a single parent dies with no will in place, it’s not necessarily such a wonderful thing if the person/people named are not those you would have chosen yourself.
For example, it’s quite common for grandparents to be given custody of a child upon the parent’s death. In many families, that would be the perfect choice. In others, however, a better choice could be made. Perhaps there has been a falling out between family members, or it’s possible that the grandparents are either too old or just otherwise not in the right place in their lives to be starting over raising children.
Clearly, appointing a guardian for your child or children is one of the most pressing issues for which to see an estate planning attorney in Rochester. It’s not the only one, though. This lawyer can also help you review your financial plan to help support your child even if you aren’t there. You might be advised to look into a life insurance policy or to participate in a New York college savings plan. Likely, an estate planning lawyer in Rochester will also help you to create a trust or trusts which can not only protect some of the money from being heavily taxed, but also give you say over how the money is to be used and by whom.
An estate planning attorney will also help you to make sure that everything is in order. He or she will ask you about bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and even military service, as all of these can possibly be directed to the care of your child or children. Every family, no matter what the marital status is, is unique. With the help of a Rochester estate planning lawyer, you can put together a plan that works for your specific situation. I would love to assist you and all you need to do is call me to set up a Family Wealth Planning Session (585) 244-2170. We work with all kinds of families to address your unique needs.
Reasons Most Parents Have Not Planned for the Care of their Kids
The statistics are staggering: most parents do not have wills or other documents naming a guardian of their children if something happens to them. Depending on the source, the percentage is between 50-75%.
Why? One reason is likely lack of knowledge – some parents might understand that a will is the traditional place to name guardians for children (and the thought of planning for their death doesn’t thrill them), but haven’t considered that a will only applies at death. With medical advances that keep people alive longer, it is more likely that an accident or illness will result in an individual’s incapacity, not death. A stand-alone guardian nomination included in the planning we do, however, is an additional document that addresses this modern reality by naming guardians for children whenever parents are “unavailable”, whether by short-term, long-term or indefinite incapacity, or by death.
Another common reason parents do not do their planning is that they think “Well, I just assumed my kids would be with my mother,” or “Wouldn’t my kids automatically go to my brother?” Assuming that a certain family member would take over automatically might work if there are no other blood relatives of either parent,or both parents’ extended families never disagree. If that is not the case, however, you don’t want to take a chance on leaving your children in the middle of a dispute (which could lead to costly court battles) about whom can best care for them.
The biggest reason parents do not do their planning is that “no one feels right” to take their place. They start going through the obvious options and think, “this person isn’t perfect because A, that person isn’t perfect because B,” and so on. Or, in discussing the trade-offs, the spouses disagree on who to name.
A New Method for How to Decide Who to Name as Guardian
1. First, think of people that are capable of fulfilling the role. For guardian, start with people that have the health, stamina, and patience necessary to care for your children. An older grandparent who is slightly physically impaired (e.g., uses a cane) could work for one mild-mannered 15 year old, but probably not for rambunctious two year old twins. If your child is very involved in his school, sports, community activities, and/or religious organization and moving to where your sister and family live would be an additional trauma for him, the family of his best friend might be a better choice if their child-rearing values are similar to yours. There is no rule that guardians must be relatives.
2. Second, think about what you value most for your children – family? location? religious observance? lifestyle? Then, evaluate which people on the list best embody what you value most for your children. If you are truly stuck, think of the worst person who could be named by a court to take care of your children. Thinking about who you don’t want, and why, can help you articulate what you do want.
3. Lastly, realize no one is going to be able to “take your place.” In fact, the kind of planning we do keeps you in your place by providing instructions and guidance about what you want for your kids to the guardians, to the trustees managing how your money is spent on your kids’ behalf, and directly to your kids. By planning, you will be able to provide guidance to a less than ideal individual – a much better situation than having no plan and possibly family arguments or even foster care.
If You Have Picked, Are The People Still Right?
If you are part of the minority who has done their planning, congratulate yourselves, but remember these are living documents, not set it and forget it. Perhaps it’s been some time since your documents were put in place, are the people still right? Or have situations changed caused by marriage, separation, divorce, births, deaths, change in location, level of trust, type of relationship, etc.? If so, does it affect their ability to serve in the role for which you have named them? This decision, like all of your estate planning, needs regular review and updates.
If you’ve already named guardians and wondering if you made any mistakes, just request our 6 Common Mistakes Guide that details the most common mistakes – don’t worry, they are all easily fixed.
Let Us Help You
Lawyers are also counselors; our job is to give counsel to our clients on the choices the client has based on the law and the client’s circumstances. If you are having a hard time deciding who to name as guardian for your children, or any of your other fiduciaries (executor, trustee, health care proxy, power of attorney agent), we can counsel you. Moreover, as a third party we can often help spouses bridge their differences about who is the right person to be named guardian of their children.
And as an added bonus for families who plan with us we now offer Family Wealth Legacy interviews that are videotaped and provided to you at no extra cost, so you can leave instructions, hopes and dreams in your own words to your children in case you cannot be there in the future.
Get started today either by coming in to meet with us or by going to our Kids Protection Plan site where you can start the process by naming guardians for free (don’t forget that you still need to take care of the financial side of life for yourselves and the kids, too, though).