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Prevent Your Kids from Receiving a Large Inheritance When They Turn 18

Is it a good idea for an 18 year old to be handed a large sum of money with no supervision or restrictions? We don't think so either, but that’s exactly what can happen without proper estate planning. Sure, your nine-month-old is a perfect angel now, but no one really knows if their child will have great judgment decades into the future. . Even the best of children go thr

ough phases where they make questionable decisions. Age 18 might not be the best time for your children to be given control over substantial sums of money. Even the most mature 18 year old can have trouble dealing with a financial windfall at such a young age. Without any planning in place, or even with just a simple will, your child could receive a large sum of money on the date he or she turns 18. If this doesn’t sound like a good idea, you can delay your children’s access to their inheritance by creating a trust to hold their inheritance until they reach an age at which they’re more likely to make sound financial decisions.As a parent, you would designate an age at which you think your children should be given control over the trust assets. (We find most parents choose age 30; we have yet to have a parent tell us they would choose any age younger than 25.) You would also designate a person in the trust document (the trustee) to administer the trust assets until your children reach the age you specified in the trust.

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Keep Financial Details of Your Children’s Inheritance Private

When you sign a will directing your assets to be left to your children, you might not be aware of the process that would take place if something were to happen to you before your children turned 18. Because children under the age of 18 (legally known as minors) are not legally permitted to own assets a court would direct that the child’s inheritance be placed in an account un

der the supervision of the court and appoint an individual to administer the account – usually the child’s guardian. Each year, the guardian would be required to complete and file an “accounting” of the assets held for the child, which would include information about distributions, investments, and financial institutions where the funds are held. This “accounting” is then filed in with the court in the public record, available for any stranger off the street to come in and see. WhatWe know how dangerous it can be for such sensitive financial information to get in the wrong hands in this day and age. Having financial details of your children’s assets available as part of the public record can leave your kids vulnerable to identity thieves and other predators.You can keep your kids’ inheritance out of the public record by leaving your assets to a trust for your children’s benefit.

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Ensure Each of Your Children Is Treated Fairly

If assets are left to your children directly, either through your will or intestate (the heirship laws applicable if someone dies without a will), or by way of a beneficiary designation on your retirement plan or life insurance, the assets will be divided equally among your children and held in separate accounts for each of them until they turn either 18 or 21 (depending on the

asset). In many situations, this method of dividing the assets isn’t a problem. If the children are close in age and have similar financial needs, then allocatingthe assets equally may result in a fair outcome. If the children are not similar in age however, or if one of them develops an expected financial need due to an injury or a disability, then it could pose a very big problem. Suppose one child is 16 and the other is 21 upon the death of the parent and the 21 year old had his entire college education paid for. The child who is 16 will have to use most of his inheritance to pay for college, while the 21 year old will essentially receive a windfall. In another scenario, one child might develop a disability or other medical issues. The child’s medical or therapeutic expenses would be paid for out of his individual account, which could not be offset by transferring money from the account of the other child. Those expenses could substantially or even completely deplete the account of the child who has incurred the hardship and may need greater financial support throughout his or her life, while the other child may be in a situation in which no such support is necessary. The default rule for assets left to children is a strict equal division, regardless of the circumstances; however as parents, we allocate assets based on need and fairness, which doesn’t always result in an equal division. You can replicate this type of spending by leaving your assets to your children in a trust so that the trustee can allocate the assets to either child, according to each child’s need. This allows the trustee to save money for the younger child’s education or allocate money to a special fund if one of the children develops a disability. When the youngest child reaches a specified age (usually 30), the assets remaining in the trust would be divided equally among the children.

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Minimize Estate Taxes

You’ve worked hard to make sure your family would be financially taken care of if something happened to you. By failing to plan appropriately, a large chunk of that money could end up going to the government – not to provide for your loved ones. The federal estate tax (and soon the New York estate tax) exemption is currently $5.43 million per individual. This means that

your family will only have to pay estate taxes if your estate exceeds this amount. To determine whether you would be subject to the estate tax, add your net worth to your life insurance proceeds. This will give you the value of your estate for estate tax purposes. If this number exceeds or comes close to $5.43 million, your family may have to pay estate taxes. Make sure to include the value of your life insurance proceeds, since this pushes many families with young children above the estate tax threshold. If your estate exceeds or comes close to the estate tax threshold, you should talk to an estate planning attorney about ways to minimize or even eliminate the tax for your family. Even if your estate would not currently exceed $5.43 million, your family may be affected by the estate tax in the future if you have several million dollars and are continuing to accumulate wealth. By planning early, you can take advantage of strategies for minimizing your family’s estate tax burden in the long run. Those strategies may not be available to you if you wait until your net worth increases to the estate tax threshold.

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