Angel or Devil? Your loved ones are probably a little of both (depending on the day). Plan Accordingly!

July 28, 2015 - Posted by: admin - In category:

taxes - 2

Fights among children are a common occurrence.  Yes, even here in Utah.

As a parent of young children, I recognize that I am biased towards my kids. After all, parents are supposed to think their kids are the very best, the brightest and the most angelic, right? We love our children unconditionally and we assume that they will always do their best to make wise and correct decisions. Thankfully, our children usually fulfill our lofty expectations (at least while they are young…:).

Speaking now as an attorney, rather than as a parent, I have also come to understand through many difficult experiences that parents almost always have a “blind spot” when it comes to their children. In many respects, this ability to always expect the best is admirable and healthy. However, when it comes to business, finances and legal stuff, parents often make mistakes with regard to the abundance of trust they place in their children and these mistakes can have significant and far-reaching consequences.

There are many, many things about my job that I enjoy. Unlike my prior life as a corporate transactional attorney at a mega-firm in Chicago, I am now able to work directly with “regular” folks on a daily basis and I find this very rewarding and enjoyable. However, the most unpleasant part of my professional life these days routinely revolves around family fights, often children disputing over the care of parents and/or over the property that parents have left behind. In some instances, these fights are due to an overall lack of estate planning–where parents just never got around to doing anything to plan or prepare and what followed was a total free-for-all after such parents were gone (or became disabled). In a good number of other cases, some planning was undertaken beforehand and perhaps even done with a measure of care and forethought. However, for a variety of reasons, parents routinely leave far too much authority, decision-making, and unfettered discretion to one or more children.  In such cases, it seems that the parents believed that the child or children would “do the right thing” at the applicable time, including being selfless and sharing liberally with others. While this sometimes works out well, in my experience, it is far more common that such open-ended and “loosey-goosey” planning results in problems, family fights, and even legal battles. What lessons can be learned from all of this?

I would propose the following considerations to each parent in relation to the estate plan for such parent/family:

  • Assume the worst and plan and protect against the same

  • Checks and balances work for the Constitution, they are also good for business and family planning

  • Involve someone who is neutral

  • Err on the side of detailed instructions

  • Update often

We will write more on these important topics in the future.

We are here to help!

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