Sunday, July 28, 2013

Estate Planning Workshop

The 3rd workshop at the TCF conference I want to mention for this Sunday dealt with the Now Childless bereaved parents. This workshop broke up into 6 smaller group to discuss the following topics: step-children, widowed or single, seasoned grievers, newly bereaved, the child’s possessions and scholarships and estate planning. After each leader discussed their topic within their group, an informational report was given to the entire group.

I did the “scholarships and estate planning.” Because childless parents have no one to leave anything to, that presents problems for the bereaved. What will happen to all your money and your possessions? I don’t claim to know all the details, but I will give you a brief overview of what I said and what was discussed by the group.

Most bereaved parents want to honor and remember their child in some way. By doing some of the following, you will find that you will be able to accomplish this.

We talked about setting up scholarships in your child’s name for financially strapped students and many parents do that, but the main part of this discussion was dedicated to trusts and setting up an endowment fund.

Everyone should at least have a will. If you don’t, your estate will go to the state and no relatives can claim anything. If you have a substantial amount of money, meaning over $500,000, you should set up a trust and be able to leave whatever you want to relatives, friends and organizations. By having a lawyer help you do this, your estate will not go through probate, if you have less than $6 million (this can change, but I think that is what it is now) and you won’t have to pay any taxes. Paying taxes is the biggest reason trusts are done. Of course, if you are extremely wealthy, anything over the government limit of $6 million, you will get slammed!

You can also designate who will get what from your estate in a written trust prepared by your lawyer. The best way to set this up is to specify “percentages” for each person rather than a set amount of money. You don’t know when you are going to die and therefore, may not have the same amount you thought you might at the time you set up your trust. By doing percentage, it will be based on the total amount of the estate at your death. Your trust can also set up funds for grandchildren and designate an executor to take care of that money, if the child is not old enough, until, say age 25, or any age you want.

I did all types of memorials to honor my daughter, but until I set up an endowment fund for my daughter in her memory, I was not satisfied. Now I am. The fund is run by a foundation (every state has them) and each year from my fund, two or three scholarships for a designated amount (there is a limit of using only 5% of the fund) is given to deserving students who fill out forms and write an essay. I get to read the essays written and comment on which one I like the most. In some cases I even get to meet the recipients, giving me great pleasure. All recipients are given information about Marcy so they are aware of where the money comes from. When the monies grow and are available, I will eventually give to something like a touring summer drama camp, something Marcy was involved in and loved. This is all written in the fund papers I filled out and will be carried out in perpetuity.

The money in the fund is invested, and by doing so, will always be there for others to benefit. I do pay a very small amount of money per quarter for that service. I also get a quarterly statement telling me how the funds are doing in the market. I have designated in my trust that half of what I have will go to Marcy’s endowment fund to help others when I am gone. It is a great feeling knowing everything will be taken care of.

For any additional information, see your lawyer. They will also probably know how to get in touch with the people who run these endowment funds in the state you live.