Skating On Thin Ice – Daughter May Waste Inheritance

Protecting your child once meant insisting on a sweater, warm hat, and gloves. In the cold reality of adult life, your adult child may make poor financial choices and endure major slips and falls.

Check out a client’s questions and our response on providing income to an adult child after you’ve skated away permanently:   

Dear Weaver Firm,

I am in my 70’s and have two children from a previous marriage of five years. One has a son and the other has two daughters.

My daughter is married and values material things far more important than financial security. She and her husband stay in debt, which has contributed to a rocky relationship for the past 15 years. I don’t know if it will last or not, especially when my granddaughter leaves home in just a few years.

More than likely, there will be some money left when my current husband and I are gone. Is there a way to assure that whatever she might be left would be protected from her wasting it away and instead, possibly contribute to her old age? We have individual wills but wondered if a trust of some sort or other type of document would be better? 

What would be the best way to structure this for both of my children and grandchildren and also, my husband’s one family member that he wants to leave something to? My current husband and I have been together for the last 35 years and live in Texas.

-Concerned Client

Dear Client,

Your question has two parts: Do you split your estate equally? And, how do you split your estate?

The first one is easy: Yes. You want to leave your children something, but you don’t want to leave them with resentments and questions. You want to leave this world in a swift, graceful manner that leaves people with a good feeling — the inheritance equivalent of the triple axel from the 2018 Winter Olympics: three equal, generously timed moves, and then you’re off the proverbial ice. Except in your case, for good.

As to your second question. I suggest an irrevocable trust, outlining ways in which your inheritance should be spent. This has two advantages. Your son has a financially responsible life, so he will be glad with any bequest and, I’m sure, will be heartened to know there is money set aside for home improvements or his children’s education. Your daughter, while not so financially responsible or astute, gets the same deal. Only in her case, you are protecting her from herself and protecting the interests of your granddaughter.

You don’t say what relationship your husband’s relative has to him, but if it’s not a sibling, you may consider leaving him/her a smaller amount than the money you leave the rest of your family. You may want to discuss the tax implications of such a trust with a financial adviser when you have decided on your stipulations and the amounts.

You want to appoint someone who has no conflict of interest whether that person is a professional trustee — that is, a bank or trust company — or not. You need to depend on that person to act in a competent and trustworthy manner.

This Trust can be contained in your Will (testamentary trust) or a standalone document. 

Planning for blended family is crucial to avoid hard feelings and litigation down the road. We’re glad to visit with you about your options and concern for your adult children. Call 817-638-9016 to schedule an appointment with attorneys, Travis Weaver or Rick Weaver. At Weaver Firm, we understand your concerns. Let us help protect your family and their future.

817.638.9016 or RWeaver@www.weaverlegal.net

5 Tips for Preventing Blended Family Legal Problems

Divorce and remarriage are more common than ever today. Blended families require extra attention from estate planning attorneys, but this extra attention to detail is crucial to avoiding costly legal fees for  probate litigation and more. 

Prenuptial Agreements are Your Friends

Two people blending a family can protect their goals and financial resources by entering into a prenuptial agreement. While a prenup may not be necessary for couples entering a first marriage, for a second marriage or any more after that there are all sorts of complex issues that may make such an agreement not only useful but necessary.

  1. Before getting married, people should discuss estate issues with their new intended spouse;
  2. A prenup ensures that both parties enter into the relationship with a clear understanding of assets and intentions;
  3. Both sides have a chance to discuss this plan with an attorney. 

Separate Checking & Savings Accounts

We encourage newly married couples to clarify any ground rules up front regarding “yours,” “mine,” and “ours” in order to avoid confusion. Understanding each other’s finances is key to avoiding fights down the road. Many people will start out having separate checking and savings accounts, primarily using them to pay for personal expenses, including those for children from a previous marriage. Don’t combine your accounts before speaking to an attorney!

If you choose to maintain a joint account for ongoing expenses as a couple, it’s important to discuss how much each spouse is going to contribute monthly – an equal amount or a percentage. 

Update End-of-Life Medical Documents 

Who gets to make end-of-life decisions? If people don’t put their wishes in writing, their loved ones can be left with legal disputes and family fights at one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Talk with your future spouse about this issue.

Children from a previous marriage may have very different ideas about who should make decisions about health care and what decisions should occur. Without specifying those wishes in a living will, also called an advanced healthcare directive, you are looking at thousands in potential litigation.

Update Your Will & Other Documents

In our experience, the ugliest family disputes that occur after someone passes away are not about money but possessions with sentimental value. Even the smallest item can have a significant emotional value, and squabbles over these belongings can cause rifts that are difficult to heal. Discuss your intentions with your family BEFORE you pass away.

Trusts should be as specific as possible about what each beneficiary is to receive. Once again, add this to your discussion.

For those who wish to leave assets to stepchildren, it’s important to include those directives in the trust or will. Stepchildren are not generally considered legal heirs, and they won’t inherit anything without being named in these documents. This is a rue awakening to those who don’t receive an inheritance when expected.

Estate plans can also become complex when a person wants to provide for his or her surviving spouse and still give the children access to inheritances as soon as possible.

For people with children by a previous marriage, a trust can be a good way to protect their inheritance. It can also be used to help ensure that any previous spouses or step-children who were part of that marriage are not inadvertently disinherited by the new relationship.

Prevent Legal Issues For Your Blended Family – Talk To Professionals

Experienced estate planning attorneys understand the unique challenges facing blended families. If you need to discuss the use of trusts or other asset protection strategies, please contact our office. We encourage people to have discussions and to communicate clearly with loved ones about their final goal: a happily blended family that remains a family after the parents have passed.

Avoid litigation. Plan Ahead. I’m glad to help you with questions about preventing legal problems for your blended family. Give me a call at the Weaver Firm – Attorneys at 817-683-9016 or visit WeaverLegal.net to learn more about our services. 

travis-r-weaver

Travis Weaver, Attorney