Can I tap into my retirement savings to pay for my child’s college education?
A: Dear Pondering:
If your kids will need financial assistance, beyond student loans, to pay for their college education, it’s vital that the way in which you choose to save will not negatively impact their qualification for such assistance. To this end, while you can use your retirement funds to pay for college expenses, this can affect your child’s eligibility for various need-based financial aid programs.
Retirement funds withdrawn to pay college expenses are reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as additional income. Consequently, when using retirement funds, the expected family contribution used from FAFSA will be higher, which will therefore reduce your child’s chances of qualifying for financial assistance.
Consult with us as your Personal Family Lawyer if you choose to tap into your retirement...
If you are a parent with children under the age of 18 at home, your number-one estate planning priority should be selecting and legally documenting both long and short-term guardians for your kids. Guardians are the people legally named to care for your children in the event something happens to you.
And if you’ve named guardians for your children in your will—even with the help of another lawyer—your kids could still be at risk of being taken into the care of strangers!
One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation is that you probably have no idea just how vulnerable your kids are, since this is a blind spot inherent to the estate plan of countless parents around the world. Even many lawyers aren’t fully aware of this issue—and that’s because most lawyers simply don’t understand what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.
Why? Well, most estate planning over...
Estate planning is an obvious concern for all parents, but if you have a child with special needs, it’s crucial that you are aware of the unique considerations that go into planning for a child who may be dependent on you at some level for their lifetime. If your child has special needs, you must understand exactly what’s necessary to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of your child, in the event of your own eventual death or potential incapacity.
When creating your estate plan, there are two major considerations for you to focus on: 1) Who would care for your child if and when you cannot (also known as guardianship), and 2) How will your child’s financial needs be met when you are not there to meet them.
The first and most critical step in ensuring the future well-being of your child with special needs is to name both short and long-term legal guardians to take custody of and care for your child...
As we head into the third year of the pandemic, we are coming to terms with just how fragile our lives and health really are. If you haven’t gotten sick yourself, it’s almost certain you know someone who has, and many of us even know of one or more individuals who have died in the past two years.
Although serious illness and death are something we are always at risk for—and should plan for—the pandemic has forced many of us to face our own mortality like no other event in recent memory. Some of those worst-case scenarios we thought would never happen now seem much more likely, and for some people, those unthinkable situations have even become reality.
Understanding The Risks
Yet even if you manage to avoid becoming sick right now, the fact remains that we are all vulnerable to serious illness or injury, regardless of how young or healthy you are. And if you are a parent, one of the most frightening aspects of that reality is knowing that should...
Vacations and Holidays Are the Perfect Time for Families to Talk About Estate Planning
If you are spending the upcoming holiday with older family members, this is actually a great opportunity to talk about planning with them. While there are few “perfect” times to talk with parents about their estate plan, the relaxed times you spend together on vacation or downtime during the holidays can be one of them. You have the benefit of having everyone together sitting down in one place. So take advantage of that!
Here are some tips on how to bring up this critical conversation:
Find a good place to start.
One of the best ways to ease your parents into a financial discussion is to bring up your own. Tell your parents that you were looking into your own estate plan and wondering if they had already executed their own. You can let them know that you have learned that the different types of plans require very different levels of effort from the executor and cost from...
Do your parents have an estate plan? Is it up to date? No matter how much you think you and your parents do or don't have, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be asking these and several other questions. When your parents become incapacitated or die, their affairs will become your responsibility, and it will be impossible to ask them to clarify anything. So, if you don't know whether or not they have estate planning in place that will help you best support them, let us help you figure it out!
The Best-Case Scenario
In a best-case scenario, your parents have an updated estate plan, and they’ve walked you through it. They have provided an inventory of their assets that’s easy for you to find listing out everything they own, how it’s titled, and who it should go to and how. Ideally, it also includes directions on how to handle their non-monetary assets, and an audio recording or written stories that pass on their values,...
With high school graduation behind us, and summer half over, many parents will soon watch their children become adults (at least in the eyes of the law) and leave home to pursue their education and career goals.
Turning 18, graduating high school, and moving out is a huge accomplishment. It also comes with some serious responsibilities that probably aren’t at the forefront of their (or your) mind right now. Once your children become legal adults, many areas that were once under your control are now solely up to them.
Here’s the big one: Before they turned 18, you had access to their financial accounts and had the power to make all of their healthcare decisions. After they turn 18, however, you’re no longer able to do either.
Before your kids head out into the world, you should discuss this with them and have them sign some key estate planning documents. One you do that, if they become incapacitated, you can easily access their medical records and financial accounts...
With marriage equality, same-gender couples no longer have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for creative estate-planning work-arounds just to achieve similar protections offered to opposite-gender couples. Yet same-gender couples continue to face unique planning challenges.
Because you may have family members who remain opposed to the validity of your marriage, same-gender couples’ estate plans are often more vulnerable to dispute and even sabotage by unsupportive relatives. This could mean that family members are more likely to contest your wishes, or it might entail custody battles over non-biological children in the event of the biological parent’s death.
Unsupportive family members may even try to block the ability of your spouse to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated by accident or illness.
While the planning vehicles available to same-gender and opposite-gender married couples are generally the same, there are a few unique...
Even if you do not have an estate plan that you’ve created, the State has one for you. And it’s likely one you won’t like. If you live in Georgia, did you know that if you pass without a will your spouse and children will equally share your assets? Even if they are young kids! Minnesota and other states have their own version of where the money goes. It may be time for you to review the plan the State has for you and make more informed, empowered choices for your family.
If you have created an estate plan with a lawyer, or on your own, it may be time for a review and an update. Estate planning is simply not something you do once, set it and forget it. In the same way your life, the law, and your assets change, your estate plan must sometimes change as well.
Far too many people spend thousands of dollars on a plan, only to have it sit on a shelf getting stale, and then end up leaving their family with a huge mess they had invested time and money to prevent.
Young families face different estate planning needs and challenges than those who have had a long life behind them. While established families may be concerned about what will happen to their family when they pass on, young, growing families can be more focused on what is happening to their family in the present. And you even may find it hard to justify planning for an “estate” you haven’t yet established!
But here’s the thing … if you have children, or anyone else you care about, you may not think you have an “estate”, but you do need estate planning. If you want to ensure your loved ones wouldn’t be stuck in Court and/or conflict if anything happens to you, the only way to do this is to document a plan.
Here are a few estate-planning issues important for young couples to consider as soon as they start a family:
The Care and Custody of Your Children
If you die or become incapacitated before your children reach 18, they...