If you have tangible personal property that you want to go to a specific person and/or a pet, you need a Will in order to make a Gift List or Pet Trust effective. Plus, there is also the possibility that you may unexpectedly come into money (rich uncle, car accident financial recovery …) and it is important to have a plan in place to dispose of such assets.
Married with Children
Many people start their estate planning when they have children. The naming of a Guardian and Successor to raise minor children is of critical importance. It is equally important to name a Trustee and Successor to manage the financial affairs of minor children. Their property should be held in trust until specified ages.
No matter how close or friendly you think your spouse and your children are, inherent conflict may be unavoidable among them upon your death, unless you have planned carefully.
A common plan has the jointly-owned property go to the children of the marriage and separately-owned property to go to the children of the owner of that separate property. Life insurance is also commonly used to create an additional asset and go in a different direction than the rest of the property.
In many ways, estate planning is almost more important for you when you are in an unmarried relationship with your life partner, especially if one of you owns a house. It is common for the owner of the house to give the other partner a life estate allowing them to live in the house for their lifetime and to then provide the house will go to the children of the house owner.
The surviving parent will be entitled to take custody of the children. You need to specify who will raise the children if the other parent is not available or able to parent them. Independent of that decision is the decision as to who will handle the financial and property affairs of the children. Ordinarily, that is someone other than the other parent.
It is especially important to plan for the possibility of incapacity. We use Durable Powers of Attorney to name the people you trust to make decisions regarding property and financial matters, as well as healthcare matters and specify the powers they are granted. If you do not want to be kept alive through artificial means, you will need a Health Care Directive as well.
Seniors also need to create an estate plan. They need to protect each other and often wish to leave their remaining property after death to their children, in some manner. By that time, there may be grandchildren to provide for as well. Also, charitable gifting may be an important part of one’s legacy.