Summer is here! For many of us, this can mean a change of pace, a deviation from our normal routines, and more time spent with our kids. With the kids out of school, your life may be more hectic as you transport them to camps, activities, and play dates. If you’re like us, you feel as if you have signed ten permission slips today and just as many information packets. In fact, it may feel as if every activity your child wants to participate in has its own set of rules.
While the permission slips and waivers can feel like a challenge at times, they also serve as an important reminder. Have you decided who can pick your child up from camp or school or a summertime activity? This is a critical decision. While right now they may be temporary authorizations in the context of this week or next month for a summer camp or an extended day program, the real question is: have you made the big decisions when it comes to your estate planning.
When most of us contemplate our estate planning, it is a conversation that drills down into who inherits what from us. We focus our conversation on how to monetarily provide for our spouse, children, and the causes we care about. We think about what amount of money will take care of them now and well in the future, as well as what time or age they should inherit these amounts of money from our financial legacy.
Our financial legacy, however, is just one part of the equation. We must also think about who will provide for our children as not only the custodian of their money but as the custodian of their person. We encourage our clients, just as we will encourage you, to think about this conversation beyond these two factors and to expand it to think about the custodian of your legacy as well. When it comes to your legacy ask yourself: What has made you? What has shaped you into the person you know now? The person who has children and can provide for them as a part of an estate planning legacy? This is just as vital as deciding who will ultimately watch over your children and how much money you can provide to secure their future.
This conversation, however, starts with the summer camp permission slip conversation.
It starts with a question of who can pick up your children, watch out for them, and make your decisions, in your absence. Much like you need to have a backup to pick up your child should something happen to you while they are at camp, you need to have a backup in your estate plan. What happens if the person who supposed to watch out for your children is in the same accident as you? What if your choice is too infirm to act? We see in our practice the latter instance all too frequently when parent name grandparents to act in a crisis.
We’ve said before and we will say it again, communication is key. You need to have an open dialogue with the person who is going to take care of your children in the future. This is a dialogue about finances, personal goals, who you envision your children becoming, and the legacy that you want to leave. It starts when they are babies and changes as they grow with you. You do not want your children and for their decision-makers to ever be left in a position where they do not know how you would guide them in a specific situation. All too frequently we see estate planning fail because it has not been touched for years. It was set up when your kids were babies and does not reflect the young adults they are becoming now. At a time without you, that will already be filled with chaos, you do not want to have this confusion added in as well.
We know how difficult this conversation is. We know it can feel preferable to create an estate plan once and never think about it again. While none of us want to think about a time when we are no longer here, we need to. From setting up life insurance to choosing guardians for your children to working with an estate planning attorney who understands your goals for your legacy, this is a living, breathing process that you need to take part in.
We encourage you to put a deadline on getting this done. Just like those forms that are due well before summer camp starts, your estate planning should be thoughtfully completed well before you need it to act for you in a crisis. Spend the time this summer finishing all the forms that are needed to provide for the future and finalizing your decisions on what is important for the future.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about trust and estate planning, veterans issues, and how to protect what matters most.