Give your child roots and wings
November 25, 2017
It has been said that the greatest gifts we can give our children "are roots of responsibility and wings of independence," said Denis Waitley, American author.
As I reflect upon the gifts and principles that have shaped me, I first think of my mother and father. My mother has been my greatest example of selfless dedication, compassion, and loyalty. As for my father, I have learned the importance of hard work, charity and laughter. These are also the values and principles that I am working to impress upon my own children.
I often contemplate, as most parents do, about what I want for my children's future. But what if I'm not there? The thought of an un-timely death gives me pause and makes me apprehensive of the future. I am sure the aversion to this unsettling thought is normal, but I know that its avoidance will resolve nothing.
In my last article, I focused on those things that should be considered when naming a guardian of your child in a last will and testament. However, it is not enough to only name a guardian. A person should include in their will and/or trust instructions that dictate how assets will be used for their child's benefit and support their values and principles.
Whether you have a will or you choose to utilize a trust to dispose of your estate, the provisions that pertain to your child should be largely the same. A will provides a probate court with your desired distribution of your property. Notably, a distribution in your will can establish a trust to provide for your child's care and wellbeing.
A trust exists when someone (a "trustee"), holds property for the benefit of someone else (a "beneficiary"). Generally, a trust can be created by a will at death (a "testamentary trust") or while a person is alive by a trust agreement (a "revocable living trust"). Both a will and a trust can satisfy the objectives of providing for children. However, utilizing a revocable living trust can avoid the oversight and costs associated with a probate.
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In either case, the person you have named as the guardian for your child would most likely be the person you have named to be the trustee of the trust if you should pass. In a guardianship, the appointed guardian of a child has legal custody and the right to act for and on behalf of the child in most matters. With a trust, the trustee has the power to oversee and distribute trust assets and income. Thus, in most instances both a guardianship and trust are needed in providing for the care of a child.
In your will or trust, you may give the trustee specific instructions of the activities and opportunities that you would like your child to have that you believe will galvanize those principles and values that are important to you. Thus, if you would like your child to attend a particular private school, you would instruct the trustee to use funds to cover the tuition of the school. If you don't want your child to grow up being a "trust fund kid," spoiled by frivolous gifts given by the trustee, then specific limitations can be stated as well. For example, a trustee can be directed to require that unnecessary vehicles or expensive electronics be purchased by way of the child's hard work and savings.
The point of providing specific instructions in your will or trust is to give your child those roots and wings that are important to you. Knowing that someone will support your values and principles will greatly relieve the stress and speculation of what the future may bring.
Michael G. Millward, Esq., is an estate planning and business attorney. Michael previously practiced with Cassandra Jones, Esq., at Heritage Law Group, and started his own firm, Millward Law, Ltd., in April 2017. He is a resident of Douglas County, and practices in state and federal courts in Northern Nevada. He can be reached at 775-600-2776.