The holiday season is officially over and to many of us, that’s a huge relief. If you were fortunate enough to spend a bit of time with family this year, you either came away from that time planning the next gathering, or you’re quite literally running for the hills. Not to be a downer, because we absolutely love positivity around here, but if you haven’t already created an estate plan for your growing family, there’s no time like the present. That’s why we asked Lake Forest mom of three young children, community and small business advocate and owner of Gifford Law* to tell us a bit more about why it’s so important to, well, get this task done and done. Thanks, Mary!
Estate Planning Needs a Rebrand… It’s Not Just for the Super Wealthy.
Words by Mary Gregory Gifford, Gifford Law
Does the term ‘estate planning’ conjure up images from HBO’s Succession, with visions of the wealthy Roy family, sitting around the boardroom table, all vying to grab a piece of their ailing father’s global media and entertainment conglomerate? Rarely does ‘estate planning’ evoke scenes of a young harried family in the car drop off line at the elementary school.
The truth is that estate planning is valuable for anyone at any age, but once you have children, it becomes urgent. What would happen to them if both parents pass away while they are still minors? Who would care for them? How will they be provided for?
That is where your estate plan comes in. A solid estate plan is comprised of a will, a trust, and powers of attorney.
A well-designed estate plan will address the following considerations for young families:
Who Will Take Care of Your Children? This is one of the most difficult considerations, as no parent wants to think about a time when they may no longer be there for their children. Drawing up a will and appointing a guardian now will give you peace of mind knowing who will raise them if something does happen. You should also name a backup guardian in case your first choice is unable to assume the responsibility when the time comes.
Who Will Pay for Your Children? Although there are many reasons to get life insurance, one of the greatest benefits is that it can help ensure that your children have the financial security necessary to live out their dreams. If you were no longer here to support your children, life insurance can provide funding to pay outstanding debt, maintain your children’s standard of living and even pay for college.
How Will Your Assets Be Managed? The basic function of every estate plan is to determine who should receive what and when. Creating a legal document that spells out what you want to happen to your belongings helps avoid unnecessary stress and confusion. If you have young children, a trust can help you specify how and when to pass money and your belongings to them. Within a trust you can decide who will manage the money and decide when the children will receive trust assets and for what purposes.
How Can You Minimize Costs? When your will is probated, a lot of additional expenses are involved, including taxes. These fees can reduce the size of your estate and leave your loved ones with less of an inheritance. An estate planning attorney can work with you to draw up a trust and transfer money and assets into it. When you pass away, your beneficiaries will receive immediate access to the property according to the terms of the trust, without the costs of probate.
Who will Make Your Medical and Financial Decisions if Necessary? Estate planning protects your estate and your loved ones if you should pass unexpectedly, but that’s not all. It can also protect you if you become too ill or disabled to make your own medical and financial decisions. Having a Power of Attorney for Property and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare can ensure your ongoing medical care and financial well-being while you are incapacitated.
We all want to do everything we can to ensure our children have the most amazing lives we can offer. We can’t predict every turn of events, nor can we spare them the pain that is part of the human experience. But we can plan for the worst-case scenario and ensure our children are taken care of if the worst-case scenario occurs. No one will ever be you to your child, but knowing that you have a plan in place should something happen to you will provide you with peace of mind and allow you to enjoy the present.
And, if you haven’t seen Succession on HBO Max, I highly recommend it. Catch up and thank me later.
Mary Gregory Gifford is a true champion of communities and small businesses, and all around super person. Mary lives in Lake Forest with her three young children and husband. Mary is CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here!