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Estate Planning – More Than Who Gets Your Stuff

We do a lot of estate plans for a lot of different types of families here, but there is one recurring situation that always reminds us why we ask all the questions we do. Occasionally, we’ll have a client who takes care of an adult child. Whether that child is reasonably independent but troubled, or really needs another adult in their life on a full-time basis, or somewhere in between, we see these sorts of cases a lot.

In most of these cases, the parents or siblings of the person who needs help are more than happy to help, and they always have the best intentions. But when it comes to making an estate plan, they don’t realize that a few key missteps can create financial stress or personal stress that can derail the beneficiary’s success.

The personal stresses are the hardest to predict. Will this person resent having a sibling, or in some cases a niece or nephew in charge of their trust funds? Will he or she create problems for the trustee? Especially if the beneficiary begins to live independently, will he or she cooperate with the trustee’s insistence on monitoring their mental health or drug treatment? These can be real problems that the parents, with their focus on ensuring that their child or grandchild can get well, often don’t think about.

The financial stresses can be easier to predict, but are just as difficult to plan for. If the beneficiary is receiving certain government assistance based on the difficulty in his or her life, a sudden influx of cash can often throw that assistance out the window, interrupting their treatment and disrupting their rapport with their caregivers. Then when the money has all been spent continuing the treatment, the beneficiary has to reapply for the benefits, go to the back of the line, and hope that the same facilities and providers are available through the public assistance programs.

We can use different tools to plan for these contingencies, but we need to know from you who has these difficulties and who needs additional attention in the plan. We ask a lot of questions – some of them are uncomfortable to answer – but we need the answers so we can ensure your beneficiaries get the best inheritance possible.

Ben Worsowicz is an Associate at Lardiere McNair, LLC.  To read more about our firm, please visit www.lawyerscolumbusohio.com.

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