Whether you have adopted internationally, domestically, from the foster care system or as a step-parent, now that you have a new addition to your family, you will want to make sure your estate plan takes into account your new addition(s).

By law, only children who are biologically related to you, or legally adopted by you have rights to your estate.  However, you should take proactive steps to ensure that you have the right documents in place to protect you, as well as your new family.

Below are some estate planning considerations:

Do your new additions have special needs?  If you have a child who is developmentally disabled or suffers from another impairment you will want to make sure you have an estate plan in place that takes into consideration the anticipated needs of this child.  In general terms, if a disabled person receives government assistance, receiving an inheritance could jeopardize that assistance.  A properly structured estate plan which includes a third party special needs trust will avoid future complications relating to his or her inheritance.

Do you have Guardian nomination in your Last Will and Testament?  Who will be responsible for your children in the event that you are unable?  Within your Last Will and Testament, you will have the opportunity to nominate those individuals to step in as guardians.  Without guardianship language, the Court will determine who will serve as guardians for your minor children.  This could mean that your children are separated and may be raised in different households.  Additionally, Arizona Revised Statute § 14-5301 allows a parent to nominate a guardian for their adult unmarried children, provided the child is disabled and unable to care for himself or herself.

Do you have a Trust?  Prior to adoption, you may not have had a Trust.  Meaning that if you passed away your estate may be subject to Arizona’s probate process, and without a Will or Trust your minor children would inherit as soon as they reach age 18.  On top of that, a Court ordered Conservator may be required until such time as your minor children reached age 18.  By creating a trust not only can you avoid probate, but you can also structure your child’s inheritance and hold it in trust for them so that they receive it at ages when you expect them to be financially responsible.

Do you Have Powers of Attorney?  If you are alive but incapacitated, a Power of Attorney can grant someone legal authority to manage your finances.  Within the terms of your Power of Attorney, you can mandate that your funds be used to support you, as well as your dependents. It is important that someone have access to your financial accounts to pay bills and take care of your children’s ongoing needs should you be temporarily unable to do so yourself.

Already have an estate plan?  It is great that you already have a plan in place but you should make sure to review the plan every other year.  Some items to look for – who did you nominate in various roles and do you still want those people involved?  What state did you establish your estate plan? What year did you establish your estate plan? What documents did you establish? Is your estate plan funded?

The attorneys at Bivens and Associates, PLLC are happy to review your existing estate plan with you, and guide you through updating or establishing your plan.