How do YOU rate as a parent or grandparent?
By Debbie Papay, FLTN Columnist- If you have beloved children in your family, you might spend many hours and dollars deciding what kind of family car to buy, what school to attend, or where to take the next family vacation. Yet many parents have not made a very minimal investment in having a Last Will and Testament drawn up! Somehow they don’t see the direct connection to providing for those minor children.
The recent Toledo area water crisis demonstrated the need to be prepared for just about anything. I was raised out in the country with unlimited well water. But the well didn’t work without electricity! Every time we had a lightning storm, we filled jugs of water from the bathtub faucet. During the algae contamination weekend, that memory came back. Even those among us with “preparedness upbringing” forget the basics sometimes.
For brevity’s sake, here are the guiding principles on this topic. Apply them to your family. How do YOU measure up as far as preparation about your loved ones?
1. If you don’t have a Will, you have not legally selected a guardian for your minor children upon your death. You are gambling that “the right person” will volunteer for this long term, challenging commitment AND be approved by the court. You are also deciding to accept unnecessary expense and delay, and anxiety for your children and other family members.
2. If you don’t have a Will, you have not waived the annual bond premium for your children’s guardian or for your Executor. Your children’s inheritance will have to pay for those expenses.
3. If you do have a Will appointing a guardian and executor and waiving bond, then what? You’ve only done half the job! Plus you have made your children’s finances a matter of public, court record. With a standard Last Will in Ohio, your child will inherit at age 18. What happens when an 18-year-old suddenly receives a financial windfall—one that they, their friends, and any sales persons, creditors and predators have known for years is coming? If you had a Trust in addition to your Will, the finances could be kept out of the public eye, and your life savings could be doled out sensibly for education, health care, food, clothing and shelter—not dumped into a 24-hour, free access “ATM” used for parties, shopping, toys, alcohol, drugs, friends, nonstop travel, sports cars, poor investments, snap decisions, etc.
TIPS: Do take action, but don’t take the wrong action! Don’t use self-help for something this important—no software, kits, forms or anything found on the Internet can take the place of the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney who concentrates in estate planning. We often see the unintended and unfortunate consequences of no planning, poor planning or self-prepared documents!
Debbie J. Papay and Chris E. Steiner are the attorney/co-owners of Bayer, Papay & Steiner Co., LPA, a Maumee law firm concentrating in trust-based estate, disability and legacy planning and estate administration. Call 419-891-8884 to inquire about their next free, monthly estate planning workshop.