It would be in your best interest to take our San Diego estate planning attorney’s advice and always name back-up (i.e. successor) trusted helpers in your estate plan. To be specific, be sure to name a back up trustee of your trusts, back up executor of your will, back up guardians for your minor children, and back up agents of your powers of attorney.
While this means more decisions during the estate planning process, it also means that your wishes will be carried out, you will stay in control, the court won’t be involved in your family and finances, and your family will avoid conflict.
Jessica and Jim did their estate planning using documents they downloaded from the internet. They filled in the blanks and thought they were protected. Like most married couples, they named each other as trustee, executor, guardian of the children, and agents.
Jim died of a heart attack and Jessica was seriously injured in a car accident while driving to the hospital to try to get to Jim before he died. Jessica was totally incapacitated for over a year.
Jessica’s sister, Elizabeth, came to our office to seek help. She found the couple’s estate planning documents in their den. There were no back up trusted helpers so no one had authority to act.
Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to take physical custody of Jim and Jessica’s two daughters, ages 5 and 7. Had the girls been at home with a babysitter and the authorities had been notified, it is likely the girls would have been taken into protective custody (i.e. foster care) until things were straightened out
Our San Diego estate planning attorney filed petitions for Elizabeth to be named as guardian of the girls, trustee of Jessica’s trust, and agent under Jessica’s general durable power of attorney and power of attorney for health care.
Jim’s brother, Mark, stepped forward and was named executor of Jim’s estate. He also filed a petition to be named guardian for the girls.
A legal battle over custody ensued which has left scars on the already devastated girls and the extended family.
The expense, heartbreak, and publicity of the conservatorship for Jessica and the guardianship for the minor children could have been prevented with comprehensive professional planning.
Who knows what Jessica and Jim really wanted? Who did they want to care for their children, manage their finances, make health care decisions on their behalf, and settle Jim’s estate?
Our San Diego estate planning attorney recommends that you always name back-up trusted helpers and work with a qualified estate planning attorney to avoid the grave errors committed by Jessica and Jim. If you have any questions about creating a trust or naming successors, please do not hesitate to call our office at (858) 792-5988.