Tag Archives: Estate Planning

Discussion Points For Parents On The Topic Of Estate Planning For College Kids

DISCUSSION POINTS FOR PARENTS ON THE TOPIC OF ESTATE PLANNING FOR COLLEGE KIDS

This fall, as college kids prepare to head back to school, they should consider adding estate planning to the to-do list.   It is important to realize that one does not need to be a senior citizen or in bad health to properly prepare for life’s unexpected events.  Additionally, estate planning is not just for the wealthy – there are many benefits to a young adult having a plan in place even when they are just starting out.

There are very real risks that students can face when they are away from home.  Whether it is a spring break mishap or an accident in a campus parking lot, the unexpected can happen to college students while they are away.   Nothing is more fearful for a parent than the thought of their son or daughter being away at school and an accident renders them unconscious and unable to make their own medical decisions.  Parents or other trusted adults could be hundreds or thousands of miles away and unable to assist the child from afar without a properly executed healthcare power of attorney to fax in to the medical treater.

While it’s true that the child may appoint any adult who is at least 18 years of age as his or her agent, for many college students, the most appropriate person to appoint will be one of his parents.  For many college students, their parents know them better than anyone and are best able to advocate on the child’s behalf for what that child wants.  However, whether the agent chosen is a parent or another trusted adult, making sure these documents are in place assures the child that the person who has the clearest idea of what is in his or her best interest is the only person with authority over those decisions.

College-aged kids are busy and focused on school and the excitement of being away from home for the first time; understandably, they are not necessarily thinking of death and disability.  Parents should help their kids see the need for planning and remind them that once a child reaches the age of 18, a parent no longer has legal authority over that child’s financial or healthcare decisionmaking.  When having a conversation about estate planning with their children, parents do not need to be grim; instead, they should explain that being proactive is key to being a responsible adult.  The following is a list of estate planning considerations that can be your roadmap in helping a son or daughter think seriously about what could happen in the event of death or disability.

  1. Healthcare Power of Attorney and Mental Health Declaration.

An Ilinois Healthcare Power of Attorney allows the principal to appoint an agent to make health care decisions when that individual is unable to do so.   An Illinois Mental Health Declaration allows the principal to appoint an agent to make decisions related to mental health treatment.  A son or daughter may have specific wishes for healthcare and mental health treatment that could be surprising to the parent or other designated adult agent, so having the discussion and being prepared is important for the entire family.

  1. Property Power of Attorney.

The Illinois Property Power of Attorney works like its healthcare counterpart in granting an agent financial powers in the event of the principal’s disability.   The property power of attorney can also be effective without a disability if the child wishes the parent conduct business on his/her behalf for convenience.  For example, I had a small savings account at a bank in my hometown that I wanted to close after I had moved away from home.  Because I was so far away, I had my mom, as my agent, liquidate the account and close it and she was able to do so on my behalf through a Power of Attorney.

Being able to access the child’s school grades and records, pay bills from his or her checking account, collect his or her mail, pay his or her taxes, and the like are important if your child becomes incapacitated.  Depending on the length of disability, an apartment lease may need to be terminated early and the contents and furnishings will need to go somewhere, so again, it is important that the child designates a parent or another trusted adult in this role so that their matters are handled appropriately.

  1. Last Will and Testament.

A college-aged child should also think about their last wishes.  Their assets and property must be marshalled and distributed, creditors must be paid, and funeral and burial arrangements must be made. Approaching your son or daughter to ask them about getting a will written may be uncomfortable, but you might also be surprised by their willingness to discuss this difficult subject and to express their desires and wishes.

Take the time and discuss estate planning with your son or daughter before they head off to school later this August.  They may want to put it off, but there is peace of mind in knowing that a simple preventative estate planning measure can and will make life much easier in matter of illness and death.

Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is experienced with the Illinois law and practice of drafting, and when necessary, litigating to enforce or challenge estate plans.   To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families who work hard to preserve that which they have worked a lifetime to achieve.

Penny-wise and pound-foolish: The dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning

Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.
Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.

There is a popular book by Andrew Keen, titled “Cult of the Amateur,” that talks about the recent increase in do-it-yourself activity by consumers who are trying to save money. From bloggers who think they are journalists to DIY lawyers (non-lawyers doing their own legal work), people may fall short and miss the mark when they act without experience and wisdom.

Now that many legal sources are available online or in “kits” at your local office supply store, people try to do their own legal work, often to their detriment.

Some legal procedures are very easy and straightforward, while others are more complex. The problem many people face, unknowingly, is the possibility of “unknown unknowns,” meaning they are not aware of the unknown conditions or events that could seriously affect the plan they have laid out. Experienced attorneys, however, are trained and skilled in knowing a general list of contingent events and outcomes and that experience value is significant.

Do-it-yourself estate planning can go wrong and significantly harm families.

Courts will invalidate improperly executed estate planning documents, leaving named beneficiaries in the dust. If a court invalidates a will, the heirs at law of the decedent will become the beneficiaries of the estate instead of the named beneficiaries, and those two lists of individuals may be vastly different and not at all what the testator had in mind.

The Florida Supreme Court highlights an example of a bad outcome for a DIY estate planner[i]. Ms. Ann Aldrich (“Ann”), prepared her own will using an “E-Z Legal Form.” Ann filled out the blanks on the standard form, with the intention that certain property and assets go to her sister, Mary Jane.  She further provided that in the event of Mary Jane’s death, she wished that the property would instead pass to her brother, James Aldrich.   Ann then created a hand-written amendment years later after Mary Jane’s death that reiterated Ann wanted her entire estate to pass to James.   Upon Ann’s passing, the amendment was found to be invalid due to improper execution.

The court will not assume what the testator meant to do when writing their own will.

Ann’s will was very specific regarding the assets she gave to Mary Jane, and then to James. What Ann’s will did not address or include, however, was a “residuary clause” to deal with any later-acquired assets.  As a result, James only received those specifically named assets in Ann’s will and the rest of her estate, which was not mentioned specifically or through a residuary clause, passed to her heirs at law.  This does not appear what Ann wanted given that she specifically provided for only two named individuals when she originally drafted her Will and given her amendment, which unequivocally contained her intentions.

Had Ann spent the time and money to hire an experienced estate-planning lawyer, her will could have easily included the proper legal language to include any assets and property received from other sources after the date the will was drafted, and her intended beneficiaries would have received those funds. This is an excellent example of what can happen with the DIY estate planner relies on a form out of a box, a form that does not give legal advice, a form that doesn’t ask Ann about all the potential outcomes.

Justice Pariente thought it necessary to include the following language in the opinion that was issued in the case arising out of Ann Aldrich’s estate:

I therefore take this opportunity to highlight a cautionary tale of the potential dangers of utilizing pre-printed forms and drafting a will without legal assistance.  As this case illustrates, that decision can ultimately result in the frustration of the testator’s intent, in addition to the payment of extensive attorney’s fees – the precise results the testator sought to avoid in the first place.”

Take the proper steps to protect yourself and your family and employ an experienced attorney when you care about the disposition of your assets and property when you pass.

In estate planning, the testator who writes their own will is no longer available to clarify their intentions. All the courts can do is rely on the law and what is written when DIY estate planning forms are used. To ensure your will follows the law and is properly written, it is highly recommended you employ the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley is experienced with drafting Illinois-based Wills and Trusts, and (when necessary) litigating to enforce or challenge estate planning documents. To learn more, please visit the firm’s website, Facebook and LinkedIn sites. Jennifer frequently shares resources and tips for Chicago area families who work hard to preserve that which they have worked a lifetime to achieve and ensure their wishes are carried through effectively.

[i] Supreme Court of Florida, Aldrich v. Basile, No. SC11-2147, Mar. 27, 2014.

Planning for the unexpected: Proper estate planning should be on your itinerary

Adding proper estate planning to your next vacation checklist can provide peace of mind knowing all your bases are covered - just in case.
Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley in front of a beautiful courthouse in the Bahamas.

My husband and I recently traveled out of the country to the Bahamas for a much-needed spring break getaway.  This trip was vastly different than any we’ve taken as it was the first time we have left our toddler-age daughter behind.   In preparation for the trip, we did all the customary stuff – left contact information for the hotel we were staying, the number to her doctor’s office, her daily schedule, and what medications she takes and how much she may need.   For the first time we also prepared a short-term guardianship designation so that my parents would be able to have her treated for any medical issues that would arise while we were gone and left them with the information of where to locate our estate plan in the event something happened to us while we were away. As we flew overseas, I couldn’t help but think about Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 and the passengers who were on board.   Now that it appears the flight went missing over the Indian Ocean and will likely be found there, I can’t imagine the devastation that the families of those passengers are feeling, knowing that they will never see their loved ones again.  It also reminded me of how fragile life is and that any one of us could have been those passengers, never imagining that something so unthinkable could happen.  Until it does. The New York Daily News online had a feature that listed the passengers on board and a brief bio on each of them.   As I read through their names and the details about their lives and families, I couldn’t help but wonder whether they left behind an estate plan to guide their family through the administration of their estates.   Some may have felt they were too young to have a plan or were childless or not yet married and thus, may have believed it was not as important.   What happened is a tragic example that regardless of anyone’s place or stage in life, an estate plan is never premature or unimportant.   At a minimum, it will give a roadmap to a family’s loved ones as they go through estate administration at a time when they are likely still going through a long and painful grieving process.   At a maximum, it can save the estate money in the form of legal fees, taxes, and court costs and can ensure that the assets are maximized and are distributed to the intended beneficiaries, that appropriate and favored guardians are designated for minor children, and that money is set up in trust for children that will ensure their care far into adulthood. As the search continues for answers, my hope is that regardless of what is (or is not) found, the families are able to find peace somehow.  I hope that the rest of us can learn from this the importance of living each day to its fullest and having a well-thought out estate plan in place. by Jennifer Guimond-Quigley