Life Series IX: Update Estate Plans When Kids Grow to Adults
For Harry and Sally, children entering adulthood was another parenthood milestone. They gradually accepted the need to talk with their children as full-fledged adults, particularly regarding family matters that could impact the children’s lives.
Although uncomfortable, those discussions focused on decisions that would have to be made if Harry and Sally became disabled or died.
Matters were complicated somewhat by the fact that the middle child, Chloe, had cerebral palsy. Chloe was able to work, but she was not able to live a fully independent life. As such, Harry and Sally expected their other two children to take an active role in caring for Chloe if they became unable.
Their oldest daughter, Claire, had started her career as a physician’s assistant in a different state after graduating from college. Chloe took a job as a bookkeeper at a local manufacturing company that was more than willing to make accommodations for her disability. Their youngest, Ethan, had started college studies as a freshman.
Harry and Sally knew that the trusts they had set up for the children needed to be reviewed, primarily because they were written when all three children were in grade school. But their family attorney emphasized an even more important consideration since the children were now adults: If Harry and Sally became disabled, who would make their financial and medical decisions for them?
The first consideration for Harry and Sally was that their children did not know the details of their estate. Harry and Sally realized that they should explain Chloe’s special needs trust to all three children, and that Claire and Ethan should know the details of their other estate planning documents. Further, Harry and Sally should decide if Claire and Ethan were ready to manage the estate if their parents were unable (Life Series III).
Their attorney provided a framework to use to determine if the children were ready to manage the estate. Did they have the financial skills and temperament necessary to make financial and medical decisions for their parents? Would either Claire or Ethan be able to think rationally under difficult circumstances? Would Claire be able to help since she lived out of state? Were the children willing - as young adults - to accept these responsibilities?
After some deliberation, Harry and Sally decided to have Claire handle these responsibilities for now, since Ethan had just entered college. They knew they could add Ethan down the road. After explaining the situation, all three children agreed with the decisions and agreed that they had a better understanding of the estate and their role in it.