Articles Posted in Guardianship

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BabyNew parents face so many new challenges–from figuring out how car seats work to figuring out how babies work. I remember taking a deep breath as we opened the door of the hospital, loaded our daughter into the car (including several annoying moments in the parking lot trying to gently put her new born and limp body into the brand new car seat) and out into a whole new world.

Part of that world includes estate planning. I built my practice, in the early days, by giving workshops at preschools, parenting groups and new parent groups at all of the local hospitals. New parents are often sleep deprived, terrified, and overwhelmed. But here’s what I told them, over and over again — you don’t have to do everything now, just put the basics in place and promise yourself to revisit your estate plan in a few years, when you are getting some sleep.

If you are a new parent, or know one, here are the basics:

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Young kidOne of the things that I love about my job is helping people with real-world, actual, legal issues. And one that comes up often is parents, or grandparents, asking me how to name their young children, or grandchildren, as beneficiaries for their retirement accounts, life insurance, or payable on death accounts.

Here’s the short answer: Don’t. At least don’t name your minor child/grandchild directly. If you name a minor child directly as the beneficiary for an asset that’s worth more than $5,000, that child will not be able to inherit it without some form of adult supervision because minors are not allowed to own property in their own name that exceeds that limit.

Instead, unless you name an adult as custodian or a trust to manage that property, you will have to get court approval to release those assets to the child. Unless the total amount of the property is $20,000 or less, a Property Guardian will have to be appointed by the court. This Property Guardian will be responsible for managing those assets for the child until that child becomes a legal adult.  If the total falls below that $20,000 limit, the court has discretion to order you to hold the money in the way most beneficial for that child.

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This weekend, my son, Sam, and I, got to attend the BEST HALLOWEEN PARTY ever! The 19th Annual California Avenue Trick or Treat and Blossom Halloween Carnival was crazy fun. Thousands of kids and their parents came to trick or treat along California Avenue and enjoy a beautiful fall morning.

We set up a table and handed out more than 1,000 pieces of candy, and still ran out by 12:30…and the event went on until 2 p.m! Next year, I’m bringing twice as much candy for all of the adorable kids. Sam came dressed as the Wildcat King. I just wore my respectable mom clothes, but the little kids came up as all sorts of wonderful things. Here’s just a few of the memorable ones: Edward Scissorhands (she was maybe 3, but totally goth); Peter Pan; Ironman (lots of Ironmen); Pirates: Princesses; and, for some reason, many toddlers wore adorable tiny lion costumes. There was also one or two chickens.

Parents were invited to throw their names and email addresses into my hat for a chance to win a copy of my first book, The Mom’s Guide to Wills and Estate Planning. The lucky winner gets his mailed out first thing tomorrow morning. A few other moms and dads took my cards, realizing that estate planning has been on their to-do lists for a few years.

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london metroIt’s summer time! I’m off for a two week vacation, and taking the kids (for better or worse). But, if you are planning to go away and leave the kids behind (because you are smarter than I am), please remember to leave a Parental Medical Release Form behind as well. You’ve signed a milion of these for school field trips, but it’s easy to forget this item on your endless pre-vacation to-do list.

However, you, as parents, have legal authority to authorize medical and dental care under California law, and may authorize, in writing, an adult into whose care you’ve placed a minor, to consent to medical or dental care, or both. Without such consent, a doctor cannot treat a minor, which explains why you’ve signed so many school field trip forms.

Please click on the link above to get a Parental Medical Release From. Print it out and put it on your fridge. And have a nice trip.

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859052_43065526.jpgSo many parents know they need to do an estate plan, but just avoid doing it. Often, what keeps them stuck is figuring out who to name as a guardian. But, here’s the thing, if you don’t name one, and a minor child is left without living parents, a judge is going to appoint someone to serve as that child’s legal guardian. And, sadly, that judge isn’t going to know you, your family, or your brother’s obnoxious wife. All that judge is going to know is who in your family steps forward and asks to be named as a child’s guardian. The judge’s job is to make an appointment that will be in the best interest of that child–and although the court will do its best to make that determination, who on earth is better equipped to make that choice than that child’s parents? Like many hard, grown-up choices we have to make, procrastination and denial just don’t help get us where we need to go.

Parents can nominate a guardian in a signed writing, but most use a Will to both nominate a guardian and plan for a child’s financial inheritance, putting something in place to manage that money for a child until a child’s old enough to manage it themselves.

If you can’t decide who to name as a guardian, here are a few suggestions for getting through that logjam: