Many people think that estate planning is a piece of cake: choose your beneficiaries, write up a simple will, and voila – you’re done! The truth is that while estate planning can sometimes be achieved with this amount of simplicity, most of the time there’s more to it than that—a lot more—especially if you have any variables or special circumstances to consider. Variables and special circumstances can encompass just about anything, including:
- Young children
- Adult children with differing financial needs
- Adult children who don’t get along
- A child, parent or sibling with special needs
- A second (or third) marriage
- A spouse with significant health problems, or who needs care
And according to this article in the Chicago Tribune special circumstances also include:
- A non-citizen spouse
- A much younger spouse
- Health concerns
A good tool in your estate planning toolbox to deal with these “special circumstances” may be to create a trust rather than just a simple will. A trust can be comprehensive and add flexibility to your plan —even if known circumstances change after your death. A well-drafted Durable Power of Attorney can add even more flexibility to your plan; for example, it can even authorize your trusted agent to modify your trust later on if the need arises.
For example, parents with three children ages 21, 17 and 15 may not want to divide their estate evenly now, especially considering that they’ve likely already paid for their 21-year old’s college education, but have yet to pay for college for the 17 and 15 year olds. These parents could choose to place their assets into a common trust to pay for the needs of all the children at the discretion of the trustee, and then divide into separate and equal trusts when the youngest child reaches the age of 21, or when all have graduated from college.
Very few families fit the simple “boiler-plate” description, and even fewer families will benefit fully from a one-size-fits-all estate plan. Our office can help you craft a plan to fit your family’s unique and special circumstances—both to address your situation right now, as well as circumstances that may arise years in the future.