Many people think that “estate planning” means deciding what happens to your things when you die. For that reason, many young families do not consider estate planning to be a priority. However, it may be one of the most important things young parents can do! A Will is the document in which parents can state who they want taking care of their young children if the parents should die.
For most of us, retirement is a goal we hope will allow us to enjoy the fruits of previous sacrifices. While advance preparation clearly increases the likelihood that we can enjoy our golden years, there are many circumstances that dictate whether retirement is an opportunity or a burden.
Part of my practice is spent helping clients solve problems after a parent or spouse has passed away. Many times, these problems arise because the estate plan included a “shortcut” intended to avoid probate.
Last column I addressed what would happen if your will leaves everything to your spouse, but you later divorce and never change the will. Idaho law prohibits a person from receiving the assets of an ex-spouse just because he or she was named in a will created prior to the divorce. However, this law does not mean you can rely on the State of Idaho to protect you from estate planning problems when there has been a divorce.
Although never planned, divorce is one of the complications of life with which many must deal. So what happens if your will leaves everything to your spouse, but you never change the will after a divorce? When you pass away, will your ex-spouse still get your assets?
In my last column, I gave the example of a man with children from a prior relationship who purchased a home with his girlfriend. When he dies, who will receive his share of the home?
When counseling clients about estate planning, my primary objective is to help them maintain control of their estate. This includes helping clients to ensure that, on their passing, their assets go to those they want to receive them. This does not happen automatically.
Everyone has seen the movie or television show when the family gathers for the reading of the will. It is usually a dramatic event with an unexpected twist that makes for a good movie plot. Is there actually any requirement to have the family meet for a “reading of the will?” If not, how do people find out what is in the will?
I know most people think of something else when I refer to the “talk.” However, in my world, the “talk” means a discussion with the children about your estate plan and your expectations of them.
When I meet with parents finishing their estate plan, they often ask me if they should share the details of their plan with their children.
If a couple in a second marriage live in a home owned only by one spouse, important questions arise when the spouse owning the home passes away. Where will the surviving spouse live? If he/she continues to live there, will the children of the spouse owning the home still be able to ultimately receive the home? The deceased spouse may have wanted to ensure the surviving spouse has a place to live, but have the home ultimately end up with his/her children.