What You Can Learn from Michael Jackson….

Choose a Guardian for your Children

Michael Jackson died with a will, which is far better than many other celebrities who died far too young. Michael Jackson named his mother to be the guardian of his children. Choosing a guardian for children is one of the most important estate planning decisions a person will make.

The guardian is responsible for the physical and emotional care of children when both parents are gone. If you do not have a last will and testament designating a guardian for your children, the court will designate one for you. The court will not necessarily find the right person to care for your children and if none of your friends or family members come forward to accept the responsibility, your children could end up with people they don’t know, or in state-sponsored foster care.

Michael’s Questionable Choice

In Michael Jackson’s case, someone other than his mother was appointed to be trustee of his trust which means his mother, Katherine, does not control the money. This is a common estate planning strategy to make sure there is some accountability for the money. If the guardian is also the trustee, it makes taking money easier, but it can also make it too easy to spend money on things other than the children. Jackson’s will also provided a monthly allowance to be paid to his mother. Her allowance would continue regardless of her status as guardian.

As guardian of the children, Katherine lived in Michael’s home and all the expenses have been paid on her behalf out of the estate including a cook, a maid, a nanny, and other household staff. This past summer, the Jackson’s made the news when the court took away Katherine’s status as guardian and appointed Michael Jackson’s nephew, T.J. as temporary guardian of Michael’s minor children. There were reports that Katherine had abandoned her grandchildren  and the children could not find her and could not reach her by phone.  Katherine was eventually found at a spa and she claimed  her doctor told her she needed to go to spa for some rest and relaxation or her health would suffer.

It is rumored that Michael’s siblings plotted to remove her from the home for a period of time so they could maneuver to get more money and control of the estate. Katherine claims those rumors are false and she simply needed to get away for medical reasons. Unfortunately, Katherine is 82 years old and is likely easily manipulated.

Qualities of the Right Guardian for You

Perhaps Michael should have named someone in better health and physical condition to take on the responsibility of caring for three children. When choosing a guardian for your children you should consider the following with regard to the guardian:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Experience raising children
  • Willingness to care for young children and/or teenagers
  • Financial Stability
  • Responsible
  • Location
  • Religion or moral beliefs

An experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide who might be the best guardian for your children as well as successor guardians. An attorney can also help you put trusts and guidelines in place to ensure the financial security of the assets you leave for your children.

SIDE BAR

Choosing a guardian may be harder than you think if you and spouse try to agree on the same person. According to Parenting.com, parents struggle with the decision because they don’t want to offend anyone in either family. They also report that spouses don’t always agree on who would be the best guardian for their children.  “So often, the parents want their own family to get the kids,” says Janine Stasior, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist in Lexington, Massachusetts. “They want to re-create what was wonderful about their own childhood.” While having the conversations can be difficult, it doesn’t change the importance of the decision. Focusing on traits you both would like to see in a guardian may be a good way to rule options in both families without naming names.

HOW WE CAN HELP

Since one size doesn’t fit all in estate planning, you should contact a qualified estate planning attorney who can assess your goals and family situation, and work with you to devise a personalized strategy that helps to protect your loved ones, wealth and legacy. CONTACT US TODAY AT (832) 510-2900 TO SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION.