Protecting and providing for children is often one of the first things people think of when they hear “estate planning,” but sometimes a client wants to make arrangements to financially care for their elderly parents. This is a particular concern for clients who come from a cultural background where a child is expected to provide for their parents. In these situations, clients can face a dilemma where they are counting on a surviving spouse to provide for in-laws whom they are not connected to by blood and with in-laws they may not even like.
Recently, a horror story coming out of Silicon Valley has spread like wildfire in the American Chinese community of a young wife who tragically succumbed to illness and then left her husband in control of all of her assets. The young woman’s parents were living here in the U.S., financially dependent on her, and staying in a home owned by her. After she passed, her husband is said to have quickly remarried and then diverted her assets to his new family while leaving his late wife’s parents destitute. There are even suggestions that he evicted her parents from a home she had been paying for. The lightning-quick speed in which the surviving spouse turned against his in-laws has left many in the American Chinese community to reevaluate their estate planning to ensure this cannot happen to their parents.
Of course, we all hope that a surviving spouse will provide for our family and honor promises, even if those promises are not in writing. The unfortunate reality is that a surviving spouse may be free to disinherit in-laws or even your children if there is no estate planning to protect those family members.
Protecting Your Loved Ones
The good news is that there are many ways you can protect your loved ones and make sure they have enforceable legal rights as part of your estate plan. One option is to simply make a gift of a set dollar amount in your estate plan. This can bring comfort that a certain sum of money or property will be paid to your parents, but this can be complicated when a parent is receiving or may receive public benefits.
An even better option involves creating a revocable living trust with provisions for protecting your parents. This can extend the benefits to your parents over a number of years and ensure they are not left paupers in their twilight years. A trust can also be set up to ensure your parents can live in a home maintained by your trust for the rest of their lives or as long as it is convenient for them to stay there. A big focus of this type of estate planning is locking in a decision while making sure that a surviving spouse cannot defeat the protections for a late spouse’s family.
How Jerimy Kirschner & Associates, PLLC Can Help
There are additional options that lock in who you want to ultimately receive your property while still providing some benefit to your surviving spouse, such as a Qualified Terminal Interest Property Trust. This type of trust allows you to balance the needs of a surviving spouse with the desire to leave your property to someone other than your spouse. These are especially useful in blended family situations where a person wants to make sure a surviving spouse cannot disinherit their step-children.
There are still more options for providing for parents, but the main takeaway is that it is possible to provide for and protect your loved ones, whether it is a spouse, children, or parents. Proper estate planning is essential to ensure that your wishes are understood and preserved.
If you have any questions or want more information, please contact our office at Jerimy Kirschner & Associates, PLLC at (206) 203-8802 to set an appointment.