A Tale of Three Women
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Three successful, divorced women, ages 35, 38 and 42 meet in a support group organized by their oncologist.
Three successful, divorced women, ages 35, 38 and 42 meet in a support group organized by their oncologist. They have all been diagnosed with different types of cancer. While the details of their treatment are at the center of each of their lives it is their children and provisions for those children that we are going to address. In doing so we must plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best. The goal is to provide them with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their kids will be provided for in a way that suits their specific needs. Oh and one more thing: each of them had ample reason to divorce their beer-swilling, skirt-chasing, work-avoiding, violent tempered husbands! So there is also every reason to protect the children's assets from these less than outstanding fathers!
The first woman, 35 years old, has two ten year old twin boys. What will happen to them if she dies? Well, the woman has her assets in a revocable living trust for probate avoidance and protection. The boys are the beneficiaries. Upon her death she has her best friend as the Trustee over their money. The Trustee can provide money for education, medical and basic living expenses until they reach the age of 25 (the age the mother chose). The father of the boys cannot touch the money even if they go to live with him after the mother's death, the Trustee is totally in charge. She has some peace of mind at least on this issue, and can concentrate on her treatment.
The second woman, 38 years old, has a daughter with special needs, in this case Downs Syndrome. She is a beautiful, loving child but may never be able to live independently, it is too soon to tell. The mother is worried because the little girl's father has refused to be a part of her life in any way other than the minimum required child support. He has a new wife with three kids of her own. If the cancer takes her she knows the father won't take her daughter into his new family. This is her primary obsession and her treatment is unfortunately taking a back seat to those fears. In order to alleviate those concerns we first create a "Pre-Need Guardianship Election" document for her daughter. The mother asks her sister if she will serve as Guardian and the sister agrees! (The ex-husband agrees when she tells him that he won't be in charge of the money!). The sister will also be the Trustee for her niece through a "Special Needs Trust". This will provide a safe harbor for the Mom's assets to be used for the little girl that will let them apply for disability or government assistance, if needed. Probate is avoided, the money is managed by someone who truly cares for the little girl and now the mother can concentrate on her treatment and try and get well!
The third woman, 42 years old, has three kids, one 18, one 16 and one 15. The eighteen year old, although technically an adult, is not very mature. She has no estate planning done. It just never crossed her mind but now it looms as a gigantic failing. Should she put her son on her bank accounts? Can he take care of his younger siblings? What about her parents who live in another state and are really old? Can they help? These issues need to be resolved and quickly. She needs a Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Surrogate, Living Will and Guardianship Elections for herself and her minor children! Her assets should be put in a Trust so the kids will have a responsible adult in charge until they reach a decent age. With no family nearby she chooses the attorney that does the estate planning as the Trustee who could serve after her death. She finally takes a deep breath and is able to turn her full attention to her health.
"Peace of Mind". That's all any of us desire! When we are facing catastrophic illness and we lay awake with night terrors about those tender ones whose hearts we hold in our hands, we don't need the extra anxiety that comes with the unknown. Make a plan. See an attorney, an Estate attorney. Get things arranged so you can face the future with some level of calmness that if the worst happens, and you are no longer around to take care of your loved one, things won't fall apart.
Joseph L. Boles, Jr. Attorney at Law
Boles Law Firm (904) 824-4278
Originally Published in the St. Augustine Woman's Journal June 2017