last article, we discussed
caring for your children in your estate plan. By employing a
trust in the will, parents can ensure that their values in
relation to money and its worthwhile use are transmitted to
Parents caring alone for their
children confront all the same issues, with variations on the
theme. Parenting alone comes in an endless variety of shapes
and sizes, traditional and avant-garde, intentional and
otherwise. Unless a third party is available to care for the
children in your absence, though, planning in any case becomes
more urgent and the needs more immediate without the luxury of
assuming that the other parent will make provision later.
As mentioned in the
last article, divorced parents should strongly
consider the use of a trust and appointment of a trusted
trustee to ensure that money intended for the children is not
diverted by an ex-spouse or his or her new partner. While
divorced couples occasionally retain enough trust and
confidence in each other to leave the other parent as the
trustee of the trust for the children, such a situation is
On that note, divorced or separated
couples must avoid using the children as pawns in their own
struggles to establish or reestablish their own sense of worth
and value after a breakup. The dissolution of an intimate
relationship can damage the self-esteem of the parents, who
often seek validation from the children – "Your other parent
might think I’m unsatisfactory, but you love me, don’t you?
More than him/her?"
Close on the heels of this difficulty
is the use of young children as communication intermediaries.
Parents who can’t talk amicably sometimes use the children as
"messengers." This is a devastating burden to their progeny,
who now feel the weight of their parents’ suspicion and
conniving and can feel responsible for it. Children can also
be tempted to misconstrue intentionally what has been said in
order to gain power over the parents.
While this office refers divorce and
domestic matters to qualified counsel rather than providing
such services directly, we see enough single-parent situations
to know how devastating it is to children caught between their
parents. After the death of one parent, this difficulty can
persist as extended family, often embittered by the conflict
between the parents, seeks to influence the child’s
For the sake of the children, many
couples maintain at least an outward display of amicability,
never denigrating the other parent in front of the children
and supporting the child’s relationship with both families.
Those efforts, often at great cost both emotionally and
monetarily, are to be applauded.
In your planning, then, unless the
other parent is abusive, God forbid, be sure to provide that
your children maintain ties with the other parent and the
extended family of that parent, whether he or she is living or
has passed away. Depending on who you choose as trustee and as
guardian of your children, you might need to implement
specific language in your will and power of attorney to pay
for visitation with grandparents and other relatives from the
On a practical note, this will lessen
the fear of the other parent’s family that they will lose
contact with your children, whom they love and cherish. This,
in turn, will lessen the possibility of a contest of your
Be sure that your will includes these
important provisions so that your children will know your love
when you are no longer there to assure them of this truth.