The financial advisor slumped back into the standard, Scotch-Guarded office chair at the conference room table watching his client’s leave. After he was sure they were out of hearing distance, he turned to the only other person left in the conference room—the estate planning attorney he had just introduced to his clients. The attorney was packing up his notes and putting them in his briefcase when the financial advisor stopped him.
“Do you have time to talk about another case?” he asked.
“Sure,” the attorney answered. “What’s up?”
“I have a few clients I had been trying to get to see you for years, he responded. “I was actually hounding them every six months in our semi-annual meetings for three years to finally get a plan in place, just in case. And then I moved to calling them every other month when Darcy became pregnant.”
The attorney smiled. “Nothing new there,” the attorney said. “I hear that all of the time. We’re still at about 70% of the U.S. population having no written plan at all.”
“I know,” the advisor said. “Unfortunately, they both died in a car accident a few weeks ago.”
The attorney frowned, instantly all business. “I’m sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do?”
“I’m pretty sure there isn’t,” he said. “The unsigned life insurance policies aside, the big issue is who will be raising their eight-month old daughter. My problem is that I’ve actually been subpoenaed to testify in the guardianship fight. I know that Rich and Darcy wanted their daughter Hope to be raised by Rich’s brother, and the last people they wanted raising their daughter was Darcy’s parents. From what they told me, Darcy’s mother was a nightmare. She was emotionally abusive, always yelling at her for every little thing, but there was never anything physical. It bordered on the cruel how there was never anything Darcy could do right and was always yelled at and punished. In Darcy’s words, she was just a ‘horrid, horrid woman.’ But we both know how things look to a judge. Weigh the still fairly young and affluent grandparents who have been married for thirty years versus the twenty-four year old bachelor brother working as an artist, and a judge is much more likely to go with the grandparents.”
The attorney shook his head. “You’re right,” he said. “There’s not much I can do. You know I’m strictly on the estate planning end of the law. I could have set things up to make it easier for the brother to get custody, but I don’t actually handle those disputes. As for you, just go tell the truth.”
“I at least had to ask,” the financial advisor said, shaking his head.
Having a new baby is a wonderful time for parents. You’ve been blessed with an amazing gift, and nothing seems so precious as the new baby in those first few weeks and months. But this can also be an overwhelming time for parents. Planning for the future may seem daunting, and the thought of leaving the child without a parent can feel downright depressing. Still, it’s your responsibility as a parent to make sure your child is well provided for, even if something unforeseen should happen to you. If you’ve recently had a new baby, now is the time to sit down and review your estate plan to ensure that all of the provisions are in place to care for your precious new child and the rest of the family.
1. Create or Update a Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is one of the best tools for parents to provide a protected inheritance for the new baby without going through the time-consuming and expensive probate process. The trust document states who gets the property when the trust creator dies, what ages of inheritance are appropriate, and what kind of expenditures the trustee can make on behalf of your younger beneficiaries. The trustee is typically the person who creates the trust, and upon death, the successor trustee or trustees that you choose take over. Revocable living trusts can be adjusted or altered in response to life’s changes, which makes it a flexible and versatile tool for providing for your child’s future. For more information for North Carolina residents, contact our office to get a free copy of Mr. Marsocci’s book Estate Planning Basics. (Out of state residents may purchase a copy on Amazon.com).
2. Name or Change Potential Guardians
Who would you want to take care of your new baby if something should happen to you? If you don’t nominate a guardian, the court can appoint someone… and it may not be who you’d want. Decide who is best suited for caring for your child, and make sure that person is up to the task. If this is a second or third child, revisit the topic with your potential guardians and ensure that the individual is prepared to now care for multiple children. If not, you may want to revise existing guardianship paperwork.
3. Buy or Update Life Insurance Policies
Life insurance is a good idea when you’re married, and it’s essential when you have a child. Life insurance policies give you the ability to provide your family with financial resources if anything unforeseen should happen to you and/or your spouse. Revisit your life insurance coverage amounts. Now may be a good time to buy more and to ensure that your trust is listed as the beneficiary.
4. Create or Update Powers of Attorney, Living Will, etc.
When you have a new baby, it’s time to revisit *all* of your estate planning documents to ensure they’re up-to-date. If you don’t have any estate planning documents, now is the time to put your affairs in order! With the new baby here, it’s time to create or update:
• Revocable Living Trust
• Health Care Powers of Attorney
• Financial Powers of Attorney
• Living wills
and other important legal documents. Prepare for your family’s security by ensuring they’re well cared for by your comprehensive estate plan.
5. Designate Beneficiaries for Retirement Accounts
Many people forget to name beneficiaries for retirement accounts, or to update beneficiaries when life changes occur. Revisit your retirement accounts, and make sure your spouse, a trust, or possibly even your children are listed as a beneficiary of your retirement account. In some cases, an IRA Trust may be the best bet to protect a tax-deferred or tax free inheritance. For more information for North Carolina residents, contact our office to get a free copy of Mr. Marsocci’s book The IRA Trust: Turning Inherited Retirement Accounts Into a Financial Dynasty. (Out of state residents may purchase a copy on Amazon.com).
6. Consider Trustees for Minor Children
Leaving financial resources and property to minor children is typically handled through a trust. To administer the trust, though, you must appoint a succession of individuals who you know to be honest, responsible, and good with spending decisions who you trust to administer a trust for your minor child. Talk with this person or persons before nominating them, and make sure they understand your wishes and plans in establishing the trust.
7. Plan for Your Child’s Education with 529 Plans or Other Investment Accounts
The birth of the child is the perfect time to start making contributions to 529 plans or other investment accounts. Education costs keep rising; college tuition today averages anywhere from $20,000 for public colleges to $60,000 for private universities, and those numbers have been climbing at a staggering rate. Now is the time to start making contributions to accounts and investment plans in order to ensure your child gets the education he or she deserves. There are many different choices available, and some of the “easier” choices may have some severe drawbacks. Talking through options with an experienced professional before you invest can help greatly.
Planning for your child’s future gives you the peace of mind of knowing that he or she will be well provided for no matter what happens to you. Sit down with a good estate planner to make sure your legal affairs are in order and to ensure that your child will have the financial resources he or she needs to get a great head start in life.