Choosing a Legal Guardian: One of the Most Important Decisions a Parent Makes

choosing a legal guardian, DuPage County Estate Planning AttorneyMaking legal plans to ensure that your family is taken care of in the event of your death is not an easy subject to consider. It can be even more difficult for those who are parents of young children.

Although none of us want to think that we will not live long enough to see our children grow up into adulthood and have children of their own, the sad fact is that many parents pass away when their children are still minors. Therefore, it is important to have these plans in place, including who would be the legal guardian to your child in the event both of his or her parents die. If you do not make the decision while you are still alive, the state will make that decision when you are gone.

Often, when parents are having the discussion over who should be the legal guardian of their child, they disagree. The father may want a relative from his side of the family, while the mother may think one of her relatives would be the best choice. However, there are certain questions that parents can ask themselves as they make their list of the pluses and minuses for each of their choices.

One of the first questions to look at is just how close is your child to the person you want to be his or her guardian. Is your child comfortable with this person and do they have history together? The closer the person you are considering is to your child, the easier a difficult transition will be.

Another item to look at is whether or not the person you are considering shares the same values that you do. Will this person raise your child in the same environment—morally, religiously, politically—that you would have provided if you were still alive?

If the potential guardian has children of his or her own, you will also want to look at his or her parenting style and whether or not it is like your own. Do you feel he or she is overly strict, or maybe he or she is overly permissive with their child? How involved is he or she in their own child's life and will there be room for your own child in their home?

The age of the potential guardian also is something that needs to be considered, as well as their health. This is especially true if you are considering your parents as the guardian. Raising a child is a lot of work and demands a lot of time. Is your parent up to it? Additionally, if there are health issues, what will happen to your child if your parent dies or becomes incapacitated?

Where the potential guardian lives is also something to weigh. Does he or she live in the same town or will your child be required to move away from his or her home, friends, school, and other activities? This may not matter as much with younger children, but can be devastating to a teenager, especially one who is also dealing with the loss of his or her parent or parents.

Choosing a guardian is difficult, but the decision can be made easier with the help of an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney, who can help guide you through the legal process of deciding and preparing the legal documents necessary. Call Stock, Carlson, Oldfield & McGrath LLC at 630-665-2500 to schedule your consultation today.


Special Needs Trusts: Securing the Future of a Special Needs Child

special needs trusts, Wheaton estate planning attorneysAccording to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Americans with Disabilities Report, nearly one in five families are caring for a family member with a disability. Equating to about 56.7 million people, or 19 percent of the total population, the U.S. has witnessed an increase in those with qualifying disabilities by 2.2 million citizens. Not only has the number of those with disabilities risen, but the number and percentage of those requiring assistance has also increased.

The report also relates that four in 10 individuals with a disability, ages 21 to 64, often find themselves unemployed and facing persistent poverty levels as the ability to obtain viable employment opportunities may be out of reach.

As reported, one in every 26 American families are facing the challenges of raising a child with special needs, and 69 percent of those caring for a child report that they are concerned about providing lifetime care for their dependents with special needs.

With data derived from a recent MetLife Survey, “The Torn Security Blanket: Children with Special Needs and the Planning Gap,” it is apparent that preparation for future needs is somewhat lacking as disabled children grown into disabled adults. The report found the following statistical information:

  • 88 percent of parents have yet to draft a trust to preserve supplemental benefits;
  • 84 percent are without a letter of intent, outlining a child's future health directives;
  • 26 percent of parents have not created a special needs trust;
  • 76 percent have not identified or named a trustee; and
  • 49 percent have not identified or appointed a legal guardian.

Often, time is not on their side, as 32 percent of all parents caring for a special needs or disabled child often spend more than 40 hours per week ensuring that the child's needs are met and further compounded by 59 percent of parents claiming unfamiliarity with their legal options.

At the Illinois law office of Stock, Carlson, Flynn & McGrath, LLC, our experienced Wheaton estate planning attorneys understand your time is limited. With over 30 years of special needs trust experience, we can advise you on the many different types of trusts that may best suit your dependent's needs as well addressing guardianship directives. Contact our legal team at 630-665-2500 to schedule your options today.

The Importance of Family Discussions in Estate Planning

DuPage County estate planning attorney, family discussions, adult children, estate planning, retirement finances, elderly care, investable assets, living willAlthough people do not like to think about their own mortality, the realities of life is that it will end one day. And that is why making plans to ensure that our wishes are met and our families are taken care of is so important.

A study that was conducted by Fidelity Investments revealed that many adult children and their parents avoid having family discussions about estate planning. Topics such as retirement finances, elderly care and will and inheritance issues are issues that should be discussed, but quite often, are not. In fact, according to the study, four out of 10 families have not had those conversations at all.

The Intra-Family Generational Finance Study surveyed parents who were 55 years or older, with an adult child of 30 years or older. The parents had to have a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets. The adult children who participated had to be at least 30 years old and had to have a minimum of $10,000 saved in an IRA, 401(k) or other investment account.

Despite the high amount of families who have not broached the subject, 75 percent of participants said it is important to discuss finances. However, when these conversations should take place was a source of disagreement among parents and children. Over 60 percent of parents and children disagreed on the timing. Parents think it is better to wait until after they retire, but their adult children want to decide these matters well before parents' retirement or medical problems become an issue.

Other discrepancies between the answers given by parents and adult children included the following:

  • Adult children think their parents worry about finances more than double (56 percent) the amount of time the parents actually worry (23 percent); and

  • Parents and their adult children also disagree on who will care for the parent in the event they are no longer to care for themselves. Almost half of the children say they will be the caregiver if their parent becomes ill, but only six percent of parents expect their children to take care of them.

As difficult as the topic may be, it is important for families to plan ahead before the time actually comes. If you and your family have had difficulties making plans for the future, consider contacting an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney who can help guide you through your family planning and help you decide which options are the ones that are the best for you.