Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Need An Estate Plan

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Grandparents raising their grandchildren is not a new trend but today the number of grandparents doing so is trending significantly upwards. Across the United States 2.7 million grandparents have taken up the responsibility as caretakers for their grandchildren.

By Linda T. Cammuso

Grandparents raising their grandchildren is not a new trend but today the number of grandparents doing so is trending significantly upwards. Across the United States 2.7 million grandparents have taken up the responsibility as caretakers for their grandchildren.

The epidemic of drug overdose deaths is a growing contributing factor (about half of deaths occur among men and women ages 25 to 44). Other factors include divorce, mental illness, child abandonment, neglect and economic reasons … among others. Stepping into the role of a parent again and opening your home to grandchildren can be stressful but it is not without reward, not the least of which is knowing that you have provided them with a nurturing and stable environment they may not otherwise have.

At the same time, you face many challenges such as using retirement savings to navigate a much-changed child-rearing environment i.e., daycare, medical care, school and sports activities and everything else that goes along with parenting.  Those responsibilities are compounded with helping your grandchildren overcome the insecurities and fear that they may experience because of their parental situation. In your wildest dreams you may never have thought that you would need to become a super mom and dad again.

During the process of rebuilding your lives and theirs, legal measure also need to be taken to ensure that your grandchildren’s futures are secure. Similar to how you handled your estate plan when you had minor children, your new estate plan should include:

🔸Establishing a legal custodial relationship with your grandchildren either through adoption – this gives you full legal rights with regard to your grandchildren — or with guardianship

🔸Designating decision makers/successor guardians for your grandchildren if you are no longer able to do so

🔸Creating or revisiting your estate plan to include a will, advance directives, power of attorney and trust documents to ensure that any assets you may want to leave to them are properly allocated. Without a valid will your grandchildren may not be entailed to receive a grandparent’s property upon death. If you have living children, you may want to discuss your estate plan with them to avoid future conflict among your beneficiaries

🔸Updating beneficiaries on your retirement documents

🔸Updating beneficiaries on life insurance policies or even purchasing additional insurance

🔸Ensuring long-term care/nursing home exposure has been considered and addressed as appropriate in your estate plan (since it may be more important than ever to ensure your assets are preserved for those depending on you)

If you are in this situation we applaud your efforts on behalf of your grandchildren. Taking into consideration that you are older now than you were when you first raised your own children, estate planning makes good sense.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 

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