In Parts 1 and 2 of our series we covered nominating a guardian to care for your children and how to appoint a person to manage your estate. In Part 3, we will address the benefits of a trust. Many young families do not think that estate planning is necessary because they feel that they lack assets to justify creating a plan. This is not true for several reasons, especially if the parents have purchased life insurance. Life insurance policies are distributed in accordance with the policy’s beneficiary designation. Many parents list their spouse as the primary beneficiary and their children as the contingent beneficiaries; however, this can lead to unintended consequences.
For example, John and Jane are married and both have life insurance policies. Both policies list each other as the primary beneficiary, and their two minor children, Rusty and Griswold, as the contingent beneficiaries. John dies in a car accident, so his policy is paid to Jane. Three years later, Jane dies. Rusty and Griswold, still minors, are the beneficiaries under Jane’s policy. Here, we have a problem.
Under Ohio law, minors cannot inherit property in their own name. Instead, a probate court will need to appoint a guardian in order to manage Rusty and Griswold’s inheritance, including the life insurance proceeds. This can lead to costly court proceedings and court oversight of how this money is spent until both children reach 18 years of age. To add to this problem, once Rusty and Griswold reach age 18, the remaining funds will then be distributed to them. This can lead to an array of issues with a young adult receiving a windfall right after high school.
A way to avoid all of this is to create a trust and designate the trust as the beneficiary of the life insurance policies. A trust avoids costly probate court proceedings and allows the parents to name a trustee and create provisions for him or her to make payments on behalf of the children for such things as health, education, and support. Such distributions generally do not involve court oversight. As an added benefit, a trust can space out lump sum payments after the children reach 18 years of age. For example: instead of each child receiving a windfall right out of high school, parents can designate distributions of 25% at age 21; 25% at age 25; 50% at age 30; or, however the parent sees fit.
For further information about creating a trust for your family, contact Jesse Bowman at the law office of Alexander, Wagner & Kinman (513-228-1100). Our office is a full-service law firm located in Mason, Ohio. A few of the cities we serve are Mason, Lebanon, Cincinnati, West Chester, Dayton, Middletown, Hamilton, Springboro, Franklin and Kettering.
This information is intended to provide broad, general information about the law and is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.
Attorney Jesse Bowman