A Guardian Plan For The Unexpected by Ann Hartz

A Guardian Plan For The Unexpected by Ann Hartz

This is the week the real work begins. The IRS started electronically accepting returns on Monday (the 27th), and our offices have already been hopping.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a GREAT idea, this year of all years, to get a jump on your taxes. I won’t rehash all the reasons, because some Des Moines people are still waiting on a bunch of paperwork. We get that. But did you know that we can still start the process for you, even without all of your paperwork? Shoot me an email through the email link at the top of the page if that interests you, or call us: (515) 259-7779

Now here’s the thing — all of this can seem so … petty, in light of the “real world” crowding into our attention. The news on Sunday of Kobe Bryant’s death has shaken many people, perhaps because of his fame, and that many people feel like they “knew” him (and of course, many actually did).

But it brings home to me, and probably to you, how quickly life can turn. No matter what kind of financial comfort his now-widow might receive, I’m guessing she and her daughters would trade all of it just to have their husband and daddy back.

All of us around here are holding our loved ones close this week.

The unexpected can strike at any time.

Are you and your family prepared?

A Guardian Plan For The Unexpected by Ann Hartz

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” – John Dewey

The death of a public figure that all of us “know” seems to hit especially hard when there are children and family involved. And that’s because when most parents think about what frightens them most, seeing their children in a vulnerable position pretty much tops the list.

What exacerbates this further is knowing the fear which children themselves feel when they are surrounded by people they don’t know, and aren’t sure what to expect from what their parents have set up for them, should the unthinkable occur.

Put the following steps into place, and you’ll eliminate at least some of these dangers…

Make A Real Guardian Plan

Did you know that 74% of parents have not (LEGALLY) named guardians? Worse, of the 26% who have, most have made 1 of 6 common mistakes that leave their kids at risk.

When you name short- AND long-term guardians for the care of your children, you must give clear guidance to your caregiver and everyone you’ve named to care for your children, in written form. Just by naming these guardians (both short- and long-term), your children never have to be put in a situation in which they would be taken out of your home and into the hands of strangers if something happens to you.

An even better step, if your children are old enough for this discussion, is to tell them this plan. Don’t make a big deal of it … you don’t want to frighten your kids at the prospect of your loss. But they’ll feel better knowing that you’ve selected people they can trust and love to care for them well.

Ensure That The Proper Legal Steps Have Been Taken

Parents often have discussed and agreed upon a guardian for their children and have even made their wishes known to their families; however, not documenting these decisions can result in your wishes not being followed when it really is too late.

You see, if you don’t communicate your wishes in a legally-binding document, you are placing your children in a “free for all”. Without clear legal guidance, every family member has equal priority of guardianship. The decision about the care of your children will be left in the hands of a broken-down court system and some judge who doesn’t know you or your kids.

This legal documentation is particularly important if you intend for a friend to care for your children, as courts will almost always choose a family member over a friend.

Also, don’t forget to leave behind specific guidance about how you want your children raised. Education decisions, healthcare decisions, discipline decisions … these are all things you care a lot about and would want to be consistent with your opinions for how your kids are raised.

Consider Financial Futures

Sure, there are different schools of thought on this issue. Some parents don’t want to overwhelm their children with too much in their bank accounts at once, which is understandable.

But, regardless of how you structure this provision, providing sufficient financial resources for your children’s care is your responsibility. And, as a responsible parent, you must take steps to protect what your children will receive … whether it’s through life insurance, savings or some other means.

To do so, establish a living trust, to receive any life insurance benefits your children would receive, so that they don’t get complete access to your assets at the age of 18; and make sure your living trust holds on to the title to any assets that would go through probate in the event of your death. And, if your estate is large enough, you will want to think through a wise strategy for handling the tax side of things as well (which, of course, we can help with).

All of these issues are things we can provide direct input to, or refer you to a trusted source if need be. So if you haven’t yet set any of these items into place, you can call us ((515) 259-7779) and say you want to discuss it during your tax meeting and we’ll be in touch just as soon as we’re able.

And remember — just because we’re busy, doesn’t mean we don’t care!

To your family’s financial and emotional peace…

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA and Associates