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Bringing Up Baby: Estate Planning for Your Little Bundle of Joy
By Jennifer L. Fulton, Esquire
It’s easy to think that estate planning is just for those with a little gray around the temple. However, the birth of a little one is a very important time to talk about your estate plan. And yes, grandparents can talk about it too.
As parents, now is the time to name a guardian for your children in your will, in the event that you pass before they become adults. You will also want to add them as beneficiaries, and some trusts require specifically naming them. While your child is a minor, you may need language in your documents that allow a trusted family member or professional trustee to hold your assets on your child’s behalf, with the ability to make payments for their needs, until they are old enough to hold the assets themselves, which varies depending on the child’s disposition, and the size and nature of the assets. Some people stagger the dates at which the child receives portions of the principal, while allowing the income to flow through to the adult child, ensuring that the child has the opportunity to develop a good work ethic and good spending habits before receiving the final distribution. Your child’s first year is also the best time to consider your child’s educational needs.After setting up your pre-paid college programs and 529 plans, be sure your durable power of attorney allows your agent to continue making these payments on your behalf if you become incapacitated. And if you rely on a nanny or a friend or family member to take your children to doctor’s appointments, pick them up from school when ill, sign permission slips, or other such responsibilities, you may wish to prepare a general power of attorney or designation of health care surrogate for minor children. Fast forward 18 years . . . and now your little bundle of joy is classified as an adult and is heading off to college. Now is the perfect time to be sure your child has prepared a power of attorney and designation of health care surrogate naming you, the parent(s), to receive medical information, make medical decisions, and take care of their financial needs if they are unable to do so themselves. Without these documents, you are no longer entitled to do most of this for them.
As they head off to college, congratulate yourself on your careful planning for your child, while you decide whether to turn their room into a workout room, a study, a craft room, or a home theater.
Jennifer L. Fulton, Esq. is an attorney at The Law Offices of Robin Bresky(www.breskylegal.com) focusing on Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate and Trust Administration. A member of the Florida Bar since 1996 with a Juris Doctor degree from Nova Southeastern University, Fulton works with clients to plan for the milestones of life (college, “adulting”, marriage, children, grandchildren, aging parents, pre- and post-divorce, loss of a spouse, aging, diminished mental capacity) and administration upon death. She can be reached at 561-994-6273 or EstatePlanning@BreskyLegal.com.
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