Eight Suggestions Every Parent Should Examine To Make Sure Their Estate Planning Is Up To Date

Posted on June 12, 2011

It’s All My Kids Fault 🙂 A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News suggested that young children may make parents less fit. As many of you know, my wife and I adopted two young girls from Russia a few years ago. They are 5 & 4 now. And I am out of shape. 🙂

However, I am starting to remedy that situation by eating healthier and getting some exercise. This made me think about planning for parents of young children. If someone is the parent of a young child, what should they look for to make sure their affairs are in order.

Here are 8 suggestions to make sure your planning is good to go if you don’t.

. Is your Trust (or will) up to date? if you haven’t reviewed your estate plan recently, you should do so. The law has been changing a lot recently. in 2010, we had another major change. The last thing you want is the Probate Court to decide your children’s future.

2. Have you selected an appropriate guardian? I have bloged before about suggestions for choosing a guardian here. Make sure that the people you have named as guardians are still willing and able to serve. Do you have temporary guardians in case your permanent guardian needs to travel to San Jose to get your kids? Have you planned for contingencies? Will the guardian need your financial resources to support their family along with your children?

3. Do you have adequate Life Insurance? I can’t tell you the number of clients we see in our office who come in with very little life insurance. All of the documents in the world only direct what happens to the money and assets you own. If you don’t have much, there is not much there for your suriving spouse or children. The documents do not create wealth. Life Insurance creates weath. Give our office a call if you need a referal to a quality Life Insurance Agent who can work with you to make sure you are adequately insured.

4. What if you become incapacitated? Who will manage your finances if you can’t manage them yourself. Are they trustworthy?

5. Do you have an Advance Health Care Directive? This is the one document that protect you. Are you sure that the person you have asked to be your agent to make medical decisions for you will follow your instructions? Will they ask questions of the doctor? Get a second opinion? Consult with other family members?

6. Do you have a HIPAA Release? Without one, the doctor will not tell anyone about your private medical condition. This can make it difficult for your successor trustee and your health care agents to actually take over if necessary. If the doctor can’t talk to them about your condition, he or she will also not be able to sign the necessary paperwork to allow them to effectively take care of you. Since there were no HIPAA releases just a few years ago, make sure you have an updated one in place.

7. Is your Trust funded? Have you titled all of your property into the trust. Unfortunately, there are many attorneys who never talk to clients about trust funding, so they don’t know that it needs to be done. Make sure all of your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, real estate and other properties are actually titled in the name of the trust. If they are not, your Trustee will be heading to court after you die to either Probate the assets or get another court order to establish proper title to the property. Either way, this is easily avoided if you actually title the assets in the Trust.

8. Do you have an Estate Tax Reduction Strategy? Most people no longer have an estate tax problem. The Estate Tax Exemption is now five million dollars ($5,000,000) per person. If, however, you are one of the lucky ones with assets greater than five million, make sure you see a qualified estate tax attorney like Sheffield Law Office to better help you reduce the tax burden on your children.