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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reasons To Consider

Eight-month-old Sam will probably never need a financial guardian.  His parents, Ray and Liz, have just thoroughly enjoyed watching him learn to crawl and have no reason to believe they will pass away before Sam or his older sister/crawl teacher Rose are adults.

But their planning is necessary to provide care for them in case the unexpected does happen.  They decided to name Ray’s lifelong friend Ted to take care of the money Liz and Ray would leave for Rose and Sam. 

Ted is “good with money,” is close to Sam and knows Joy, Liz’s sister, who would be the personal guardian.  On the other hand, the money Ray and Liz would leave for Sam, including their life insurance amounts, would be a much larger amount than Ted has yet needed to handle for himself. 

So Ray and Liz are considering how to empower Ted to get the advice and help he would need to best manage the money for Rose and Sam.  One way would be to suggest Ted work with a specific financial advisor they trust. 

Another way would be to name a “corporate” co-guardian to serve with Ted in their Wills.  One example of a corporate guardian is the trust department of a bank. 

The bank would manage the money and do the accounting work, and Ted would decide with the bank what the children and Joy need. 

Corporate co-guardians can provide financial expertise to make the job of an ordinary person serving as guardian of a large estate easier to fulfill.  To consider your alternatives for your own estate plan, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Information

Baby Sam and pre-schooler Rose will probably never need a financial or personal guardian, because their parents Liz and Ray are still alive and well, and expecting to remain so, thank you very much. 

But in their Wills, Liz and Ray have named Liz’s sister Joy and Ray’s longtime friend, Ted, to serve as guardians just in case. Joy would be Rose and Sam’s personal guardian and add them to her home, and Ted would take care of Rose and Sam’s money. 

Ted and Joy do know each other, but only from holiday family gatherings.  Ray and Liz, however, know both of them very well.  So they have decided to do the somewhat eerie exercise of writing a letter “from the grave.” 

We recommend that they write down what they think Joy and Ted would need to know about Rose and Sam and each other in order to best work together to provide for Rose and Sam in the event they do serve as guardians.  These letters would only be given to Joy and Ted if Ray and Liz have passed away.
     They can include as much or little detail as they like, and they can change it from time to time as Rose and Sam grow up and change.  The letter will not be legally binding on Joy or Ted as guardians, but will give them help doing a very difficult job.

The legal documents are a big part of a complete estate plan, but additional information for your guardians can help give them confidence that they are doing what you would want and so makes their responsibilities easier to fulfill.  To begin planning, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Building Confidence

Ray and Liz need to name someone to manage their children’s finances in the event they were to die before seven-month-old Sam and four-year-old Rose have grown up and are on their own.  They want the guardian of Rose and Sam’s estates to know what is going on later with the Rose, Sam, Aunt Joy, who they named to be the personal guardian, and Joy’s family.

For example, Liz and Ray would want some of the money they leave for Rose and Sam to allow Joy to buy a house that will be comfortable for her expanded family.  So they want the finance guardian to have enough information to propose the new house to Joy and the probate court.

Part of making sure the finance guardian knows enough is choosing someone who has a good relationship with Joy and Rose and Sam.  Ray’s lifetime friend, Ted, lives about an hour away and regularly spends family holidays with Liz, Ray, Rose, Sam, Joy, her family, and others.  And he’s excellent with money.

Naming Ted to serve is a great start, but we also recommend that Liz and Ray write a letter to Ted to be given to him in the event of their unexpected deaths. 

Their letter may tell Ted about their dreams for Rose and Sam and some things about Joy and her family, of course. Ray and Liz can particularly mention their hope that a bigger house be considered, or similar ideas. 

Leaving informal directions and thoughts for your guardians outside the Will document can give them confidence that they are doing what you would want and so make their responsibilities easier to fulfill.  To begin planning, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More House Needed?

Ray and Liz want Liz’s sister Joy to take their children Sam and Rose in the event they were to die before they are adults, so they are naming her to be guardian of their “persons.”  However, as we have talked about the last few columns, they do not want Joy to manage the kids’ finances.

They have the option to name a different person to serve as guardian of the estate to be in charge of managing the money the children would inherit. 

Obviously, that person should be good at keeping track of investments, income and expenses, but also of Joy and the children’s needs.  Liz thinks her sister would probably not ask for funds to buy a bigger house for her family even if needed. 

Liz and Ray would want some of the money they leave for Rose and Sam to allow Joy to buy a house that will be comfortable for the expanded family.  So they want the guardian of the kids’ finances to have enough information and, if needed, be willing to propose it to Joy and the probate court. 

Ray and Liz can mention the possibility of these kinds of expenditures in the Will itself to provide some guidance for the court and the guardians.  The split roles and extra guidance can make both guardians’ responsibilities easier to fulfill. 

To direct the court and the guardians via your estate plan customized to your particular family situation, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an estate planning appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Custody Versus Finances

Ray and Liz want Liz’s sister Joy to take care of their children, Rose and Sam in the event they were to die before they were grown.  However, they do not want Joy to have to manage the kids’ money for two reasons. 

First, as we talked about in an earlier column, she is not “good with money” and does not like managing finances.  Second, Ray and Liz know that simply taking care of the two kids will be a big responsibility and take much of Joy’s time and energy.  They want her to be able to focus on that, not figuring out how to invest the money from Ray and Liz’s life insurance policies.

So having someone else in charge of the kids’ money would be better.  Fortunately, there are two types of guardianship, and Ray and Liz can name different people for each type in their Wills.

The first type is called being guardian of the person.  That is the person who makes the decisions about Sam and Rose’s care – such as where they will live, what they will eat each day, and who will pick them up when they cry. 

The second type of guardian is the guardian of the estate.  That is the person in charge of managing their money.  That person makes sure any school or other bills are paid, that the money is invested wisely, and decides what money will be available to them before they are on their own.

To plan for possible guardianship of your children, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 to set an estate planning appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Separation Advantage?

If Ray and Liz were to die before their young children are adults, someone would have to be named the kids’ guardian by the probate court.  As we have been writing about for some time, Ray and Liz can decide who the court would name as guardian in their Wills. 

After much thought, Liz’s sister Joy is their first choice to be named his guardian so Rose and Sam can become part of Joy’s family.  The one snag is that Joy has no money sense. 

Joy went deep into debt for fashionable clothes, an expensive car and other luxuries and so had to file bankruptcy before she married.  Then she continued overspending until her husband took over the family finances. 

Joy admits to feeling relieved to not have to manage their money, even though she is sometimes frustrated with the limits of the budget her husband has set up.  So Ray and Liz know that Joy is simply not a good person to have to manage Rose and Sam’s money.  At best, it would be a burden on her; at worst, the money might not be there when the children need it. 

Fortunately, Illinois guardianship laws allow the responsibility for the children’s finances to be handled separately from physical custody, which we will explain more in later columns. 

To begin planning to better handle your minor children’s future in the event of your untimely death, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 to schedule an estate planning appointment.

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Name One, Get Two

When Ray and Liz chose guardians to name in their Wills for young Rose and Sam, they named one person at a time even though some of those people are now married.  This provides clearer direction for the probate court and minimizes the likelihood the children could be involved in any future conflict due to deaths, divorces or remarriages of any of the couples.

They also authorized the named guardian to designate their spouse to serve as co-guardian so long as the named guardian is serving, but they did not specify the spouse’s name. 

The court’s option to appoint the named guardian’s spouse to serve as co-guardian if requested could be important to Rose and Sam. 

For example, children often receive their health care insurance coverage through a parent’s employer.  Some employers allow other children living full time with an employee to also be eligible for coverage, but that eligibility can be limited to children for whom the employee has been appointed guardian by a court. 

So it might be essential that the half of the couple whose employment has health insurance available also be a formally appointed guardian. 

Plus, if Rose or Sam were seriously hurt while the guardian is traveling or is otherwise unavailable, it may be important that the named guardian’s spouse can directly consult and consent to medical treatment for them. 

For assistance considering your own estate planning choices, including how to name a guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Name One At A Time

Ray and Liz have decided where their children will fit best if Ray and Liz were to pass away before they are grown.  Liz’s nephew is near in age and adores his cousins, and Aunt Joy and Uncle Tom are great parents. 

Choosing possible guardians to name in their Wills is both more and less than picking a future family for Ray and Liz’s children.  But the court would not appoint the whole family to serve as guardian. Instead, the court will appoint an adult to serve, or sometimes two adults to serve together. 

Of course, families and marriages change over the years.  While Ray and Liz could name both Joy and her husband, Tom, to serve as co-guardians, we recommend that they name one person, not both.

What if they named them together, but Joy and Tom later divorce?  How would the court decide which to name to serve?  Or whether to skip both entirely since they cannot serve together? 

We do not want the court to have to guess about it.  If their children end up having to live through the death of their parents, Ray and Liz do not want them to be at risk of a custody battle between divorced potential guardians.

Next week we will write about how to give the court flexibility to appoint both spouses to be guardians together in the right situation, without the risk of any custody dispute.  For assistance considering your own estate planning choices, including how to name a guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

©2015 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Making The Most Of New Beginnings

Ray and Liz finally decided who should serve as guardian of their children if they were to pass away too early in life.  First, they will name Liz’s sister, Joy.  If Joy could not do it, then Ray’s nearly life-long friend, Ted, will be named to serve. 

That was the step one.  Next, they want to minimize the possible burden on Joy or Ted and maximize the benefits for their children.  One way to help is to write letters to Joy and Ted, to be opened only if Ray and Liz do pass away before little Rose and Sam are ready to be on their own.    

It may seem a bit eerie, but writing letters from the grave can really make a big difference – and they can be updated whenever the family situation changes.  Ray and Liz can simply replace the old letters. 

Ray and Liz write about what they hope for their kids, like pointing out how much Rose loves bugs, lizards and microscopes, and they think she might like to be a scientist. 

They can encourage both Joy and Ted separately to talk with each other about what is going on with the kids, regardless of which one of them is serving as the guardian right then. 

Importantly, they can give Joy ‘permission’ to decline to serve if it would not work well with her situation as it exists after Ray and Liz’s deaths, by telling her they are confident that Ted would keep family contact for the kids. 

Liz and Ray now have an annual New Year’s Day Project, to update their letters each year, as part of looking forward to the next year and taking stock of last year’s changes.

Happy New Year from the Gruber Law Office!  

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Love Came Down At Christmas

Suddenly, quietly, it is Christmas Eve.  Wait, Christmas Eve is not quiet anymore, with Sam now 5 months old and Rose so excited about her 4th Christmas that she cannot sleep. 

Besides deciding the best presents for Rose and Sam, Liz and Ray are working out how to be sure love surrounds Sam and Rose no matter what happens.  They are deciding who they should name to serve as guardian for their children in their Wills. 

They did have trouble getting in touch with Santa to see if he would be willing to do the job if Liz and Ray moved on up to watch from far above before their kids were ready to be out on their own.  “Plus, maybe he’d get them lost in with all those elves,” worries Liz. 

So they have narrowed down their candidates to two, neither of whom are Santa.  Liz’s sister, Joy, and her family would shower them with love.  Ray’s friend, Ted, and his fiancée would welcome them with love and much excitement. 

Both are good choices, and both would face real challenges if events required them to be guardians for Rose and Sam.  But Liz and Ray are at peace with the prospects for Rose and Sam to always know that love comes down at Christmas for everyone, including Rose and Sam, even if Ray and Liz are unable to teach them that joyful lesson in person in the future.

We at the Gruber Law Office send out our wishes to all for a peaceful and loving Christmas, hoping that peace finds itself more at home our country and our world beginning this very minute.    

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Family Roles

Liz and Ray continue to consider who should be named to serve as guardian of their children in their Wills.  So far, they’ve thought about Liz’s sister Joy, Ray’s brother Don, or their friend Ted. 

One factor is the guardian’s own family situation.  For example, since Ted is engaged, whether his fiancée would be willing to take on parenting Rose and Sam is important.

If the guardian has children, how old are they in comparison?  Are they healthy or need intense care and attention?  Would the guardian likely be able to merge the children into a new family if Rose and Sam were added as orphans in the future? 

Don has no children and is single.  Liz and Ray wonder if his ‘cool’ lifestyle could accommodate children.  And would Don be willing to make the adjustments that would be needed? 

Many parents say that having a child changes their lives completely.  Adding an orphan to a family, whether there are already children or not, is a similarly huge transition.

Considering the answers to these kinds of questions is useful.  For Ray and Liz, determining the answers can help them write letters for their named guardians to be read only if Ray and Liz were to pass away too soon.  It can be important to give permission to a named guardian to decline if it does not fit their situation as hoped – and a letter allows that, even after death.

For assistance considering your estate planning choices, including naming a guardian, please call our office at (815) 436-1996 for an appointment. 

© 2014 Gruber Law Office, Ltd.


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