What parents should know about estate planning
It can be uncomfortable to discuss what will happen to our families when we’re gone, but it is important.
It can be uncomfortable to discuss what will happen to our families when we’re gone, but it is important. We reached out to two experts who help explain why it’s necessary, and what we should consider.
- Donald H. Sienkiewicz, Esq., Estate Preservation & Planning Law Office, Amherst estateplannh.com
- Abbe Shaine, Shaine Law, Bedford shainelaw.com
Who should have an estate plan? Why and when should I begin?
Sienkiewicz: “Everyone who has someone they uniquely care about — usually a spouse or a child — should have an estate plan. Having an estate plan means working with a knowledgeable attorney to figure out who you want your property to go to if you die, when, and with what strings attached, and then having that attorney complete a variety of paperwork to ensure that’s what will actually happen. Different property rules control real estate, life insurance, retirement accounts, businesses, investments and cash, so it’s more complicated than simply having a lawyer write a will for you (or trying to do it yourself).”
Shaine: “Most families with children and/or assets should, at a minimum, have a will. If you don’t have a will, your assets will pass according to the New Hampshire law of intestacy. This essentially means that it would pass to a family member or members according to how closely they are related to you. Adding in the additional components of a comprehensive estate plan is likely to minimize the expenses and delay of probate and increase your ability to keep the components of your decisions private. Additional factors to consider when deciding to establish an estate plan include whether there are any special circumstances, such as a blended family or a child with special needs. If there is a business involved, succession planning is also important.”
What should I consider when naming a legal guardian in my estate plan?
Shaine: “You will want to select someone who shares your values. Consider the age and health of this individual or individuals. You will want them to be in a stable living situation and to be able to handle the complexity of raising your child and that, if necessary, they have the financial wherewithal to undertake these responsibilities.”
Sienkiewicz: “A guardian is the person who has legal decision-making authority over your children if they are under 18 and both parents are gone. This is usually, but not always, the person they live with. It is usually not the person who manages the big pot of money — that’s your trustee. It’s rare that the person with the qualities you want to take care of your children also would make the best money manager. When choosing a guardian, you and your spouse should make a list of family, friends, teachers, caregivers and others. Think outside the box – friends with similar values might be better choices than family members who have a different lifestyle or philosophy. You can give your guardians a list of people you want to be involved in your children’s lives, but who don’t have to have day-to-day responsibility for raising them.