Saturday, October 16, 2010

Setting a precedent!

At first I was going to write this posting as an apology to Meghan's future boyfriends and spouse for setting a bad precedent, but then I realized it is just part of being in a relationship. As a parent I have the view that the main things I need to do for my children is provide them a loving environment, the self esteem to do what ever they want and the education and background to succeed. I can't be responsible for her (new found) expensive tastes.

What the heck am I writing about? Well, today is Meghan's 16th birthday. Being a child of the 80's I've always had in my mine that I need to buy my daughters diamond earrings on their 16th birthday. So on Thursday I stopped at Deb's favorite jewelry store, The Shane Company and bought her a pair of diamond and white gold earnings. Of course I can't buy something like that for my daughter and forget my wife, so I also got Deb a pair of gold hoop earrings.

Yes, the whole time I was looking at them I kept thinking back to the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwald's character giving the diamond earring that her Dad bought her to the dirt bag. I hope Meghan has more sense than that ;)

While the guy was filling out the paperwork he was nicely trying to upsell me. (which is fine, I expected it and he wasn't pushy, which is why I really like going there.) I had mentioned that we'd bought a lot of stuff there over the years and I guess our record in their CRM system shows it, since he said "Wow, yes you have". I made a joke about my 'annual tithe to Tom' and he gave me a strange look, so I explained. 19+ years ago Deb and I went looking for engagement rings and ended up at their store by Windy Hill. She saw the ring she wanted but we didn't get it. I of course snuck back and bought it, thus starting the precedent with Deb.

For many, many years, everything I bought Deb for Christmas or our Anniversary was from The Shane Company. For our 10th anniversary I even brought Meghan with me to pick out the anniversary band. At one point I started joking that at Christmas I was paying my 'annual tithe to Tom' (Tom Shane is the guy you hear on the commercials and he is the CEO. He's also been mocked by SouthPark and the local jewelers as 'Mister Happy'). So as the guy tried to upsell me, I kept responding with 'have it'. I even pointed out that I have Tanzinite earrings, which they didn't ever sell any more!'

So whoever you are in Meghan's future, I'm not really sorry for starting her down this path!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Special Needs Trusts

One of the stranger things all parents have to do is prepare their wills. Having a baby is often the first time most of us think about our mortality and what will happen if we were to die.

15 year ago, Deb and I did a will when Meghan was 6 months old. We didn't have a lot then (the bank owned 90% of that house then!) so the will was pretty basic and done through one of these boilerplate law offices. It covered the traditional 'and other children not yet alive' clauses so we didn't think about it much since then.

Similar concerns about life insurance. We bought it, we pay the premiums each month and I don't think much about it.

Then I read an article a couple of months ago about the realities of having an autistic child. As most wills are written, when the estate of the parents is closed, the money from the estate goes directly to the children.

Reality of autistic children though, is that additional money may DISQUALIFY them for some services. Most government services are based on the income level of the recipient (not necessarily the family) so a sudden influx of cash would remove services.

Worst case scenario is he would lose all his services for as long as the cash lasts, then go back (usually after a waiting period), with no income. Which is not what we want.

While we have no idea what Christopher's life is going to be in a year never mind 14 when he's 18, we do need to think about it.

The solution is what is called a special needs trust. When the estate is executed, the money for the child having special needs (not just autism, but anything unusual) is placed into a trust with an executor who decides when/how the money is used. The nice thing is this trust is NOT included in the income of the child, so any services are not lost.

Reading about this, and the realities of grown autistic children, I reached out to a friend to find a lawyer to help set one up.

However, nothing needed to be changed. The basic will had a clause that allowed the executor of the estate to decide if one of the recipients of the estate was not fit to receive the money, to establish a trust for him or her. Basically, the special needs trust for Christopher was already in place.

Even the lawyer was surprised, since he had never seen a generic will written in Georgia that had that clause.