Estate Planning for Special Family Situations
This year this article is following a hypothetical couple through their lives to see what role estate planning had on their family. To review prior articles, go to SeamonLawOffices.com/Blog.
Our story follows a couple I refer to as “John” and “Sue”. They established their estate plan as young parents, then later they updated their plan to address concerns over their adult daughter’s poor decision-making. I was surprised to hear from them again so soon, but John had mentioned his sister recently passed due to a drug overdose, so I thought maybe he was trying to help the family tie up some loose ends. I was very surprised that they had been appointed guardians of his sister’s son.
John and Sue’s youngest child was in college, so going from being practically empty nesters to the guardians of a ten-year-old was quite a change, but they were determined to help Joey. They explained that Joey had some behavioral and developmental deficits that his physician believed might be overcome with his new healthy and supportive home environment.
John and Sue decided that they accepted Joey as their son in their hearts and wanted to know what changes needed to be made to their last will and testament to include him. At that point, they were considering adoption, but that was not a decision that they were going to make immediately. I explained that their current wills distribute their estate to their descendants equally and that would not include Joey if he was not a biological or adopted child, but that we could specifically include him if that was their wish.
This loving couple decided that they wanted to include Joey and treat him as if he were their own. They already knew from our previous conversations that they could control his inheritance until he was an adult and then even longer if he was not fiscally responsible or mature enough to manage his inheritance. We reviewed a variety of ways to do so. They were concerned that if Joey’s learning deficits were not overcome that he would not be successful in college, and they recalled that their estate plan currently provided for college but they wanted to make sure the educational provisions would also pay for a trade school. I reassured them that the provision for education was not limited to college.
Due to Joey’s mother’s addiction, they were very relieved to learn that we could include a provision giving Joey’s trustee permission to require a drug test before an outright distribution to him as well as requiring Joey to be a productive member of society before benefiting from the trust as an adult. They didn’t want Joey to be what they referred to as a ‘trust baby’.
Before they left, I explained that their wills could have stand by language in case Joey ended up having some deficits that could lead to him needing to apply for means tested benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. Prior to Joey, their family had relatively few health issues, so they were not familiar with these types of benefits. We discussed that process a bit, but they were confident that with their support Joey would mature into an independent adult. They decided that they would rely on those standby provisions for now, but they would keep our office updated on Joey’s progress. We agreed that our office would set a reminder for one year from their updates to check in on them.