Should you hold a family meeting to explain your estate plan?

I received the following question from clients very often: “SHOULD I HOLD A FAMILY MEETING TO EXPLAIN MY ESTATE PLAN?”

Here’s my Answer:

265359183_640Parents are often reluctant to share their estate plans with their adult children. Some feel its a private matter and shouldn’t be revealed until death. Many are afraid of creating relationship problems within the family, for example if one child is chosen to be a trustee or executor over the others or if inheritances are not equal. But explaining your decisions now to your family, in a general way, will avoid surprises later and make it more likely that they will accept them.

Holding a family meeting is a good way to do this. You can ask your estate planning attorney and financial advisor to be there. They will be able to explain how your plan will work and why these decisions were made, as well as answer any questions. This will also introduce your advisors to your family members so they will be more comfortable working together in your absence.

Choose a date and time that is convenient for everyone and a place that is appropriate. Limit the meeting to adults; arrange for childcare if necessary. Have a beginning and ending time.

Make a list of topics you want to cover. No specific financial information or values of assets need to be disclosed at this time. This meeting should be a general explanation of what you have planned and why, in order to prepare family members for what they can expect and may need to do if you become disabled or die. Allow for and encourage questions and discussion.

It is likely that there will be some kind of anxiety when the meeting begins, but will allow your children and family members to ask questions to understand your intent.

Are you a new parent? Did you get asked this question?

new-baby-wallpaperI was visiting with a girlfriend over Labor Day weekend. She just delivered a beautiful baby girl. As I asked the “how did it go” question and she gave me details about the birthing process, she said, “the nurse asked me for a will and health care directive!” She was shocked and although she has a plan in place (but will updating to include the new baby), she didn’t realize the hospital was aware of the need for those important documents.

If you are a new mom or mother of minor children, a will allows you to appoint guardians for your little ones if something ever happens to you or your spouse. Would you want your child to stay with individuals they don’t know or that you don’t care for?

The moral of this story is that my girlfriend may have been at a hospital that puts an emphasis on the documents, but if you’re reading this blog post and you don’t have a will, what are YOU doing to protect your children?

Chime in: When you gave birth, were you asked for those documents too? Let us know!

4 months left until 2015…What are YOU doing to achieve your goals?

ED-image-postWith summer winding down, wedding season ending, new babies coming into the world, school starting and only 4 months left of 2014, what are you doing to achieve your goals?

If reviewing or creating an estate plan is on your “to-do” list, now is the perfect time to meet with an attorney to get started on designing a plan perfect for your family or to review your plan to make sure there are no deficiencies.

Here are a couple of documents I have created to help you get started:

Estate Planning Deficiencies Checklist

Estate Planning Checklist- Do you need a trust?

If you want to schedule an appointment with me, visit the contact page or send an email to Carmen (at) CarmenRosasLaw (dot) com. I would love to chat with you about your options!



What would happen to your children if you died?

Kids-Show-2014When you don’t appoint a guardian, your children will have to wait until a judge determines who they should reside with. Sometimes the children must go to foster care temporarily until this is decided- essentially the state becomes your child’s guardian.

If you don’t want that to happen, appoint a guardian!

Here are some tips to consider when appointing a guardian:

  • Is your child comfortable with the individual?
  • Does the individual have the same moral values as you?
  • Is religion important? Does the individual practice the same religion?
  • Are the individual’s parenting style the same as yours?
  • Do you trust the individual to raise your child as you would want your child to be raised?

There are lots of other things to consider when appointing a guardian, however they are not the same for everyone. Consider what is important to you- the legacy and life you’re living- and appoint someone who would do their best to raise your child as you would.

Our office offers FREE GUARDIANSHIP WORKSHOPS- call or email to schedule yours today!

World Autism Awareness Day + Special Needs Planning

written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas



April 2 is celebrated as World Autism Awareness Day. With the growing prevalence of autism, more and more parents are learning what it’s like to care for a special needs child.

However, with that additional care requires additional planning to ensure the child is properly cared for long term.

Special needs planning through your estate plan allows you to appoint a caretaker and manage finances in a way that will not inhibit any government benefits your child may receive.

If you have questions about estate planning and creating a special needs trust for your adult or infant child, give us a call. For more information on autism, visit

There is a family emergency…..What do you do?

written by Silicon Valley estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas.
Create a plan for your family. It's called an emergency for a reason.

Create a plan for your family. It’s called an emergency for a reason.

As most of my current clients know, my family recently had a family emergency. This emergency sent our family into a whirlwind. Emotions were high, stress was soaring and at some points, we had no idea what was going on.

Family emergencies are not uncommon. It happens everyday to a family throughout the world. The past two weeks I’ve learned that without a plan, your whole world stops.

The key to having a plan that works, is having a plan specifically designed for your family. Not all plans are cookie cutter and fill in the blank. Families have various reasons for creating a plan, there are different dynamics in each family and sometimes simply appointing Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary to act as an agent for all purposes, just won’t work.

As you might guess, my family luckily had a plan and although there were times we felt confused and emotions were soaring, we knew what needed to be done.

For those of you who do not have a plan yet, here are some things to consider:

  • Who do you trust with your finances? Someone financially responsible with their own finances would be ideal.
  • Who do you trust with your children? Does this person have their own children? If so, would caring for your children be too much of a burden for them?
  • Who would you want to manage your healthcare issues?  Someone to make life changing decisions regarding treatment?
  • What would you want them to do? How would you want them to handle your affairs.

These are just a starting point. If at the bare minimum, you hand write something out to show your intent and to simply just think about it, DO IT!

If you want documents that are legally binding, our office can help. Give us a call and our Client Intake Specialist will schedule an appointment for you and get you documents to fill out before our meeting.

Happy 110th Birthday Dr. Seuss!

written by Silicon Valley Estate Planning Attorney, Carmen Rosas



One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish

Yup, a childhood favorite, Dr. Seuss is 110 years old!

While we won’t likely live to be 110, its important to create a plan for the life we live and the life and loved ones we leave behind.  So, in celebration of good ol’ Dr. Seuss, do something that will protect your children.

Some options are:

  • Appoint a Guardian
  • Create a Will
  • Set up a comprehensive Estate Plan (Will, Trust, Guardian Appointment, Health Care Directive and Power of Attorney)

And…. Don’t forget to have a little cake!

College Cost and Your Child’s Inheritance

College Fund

written by Bay Area estate planning attorney Carmen Rosas.

Question: Our younger son attended a state college  and our older daughter, an ivy league school that cost far more. We want to take into account the difference in the expense as we decide what to leave our sons in their inheritance. How do we do this?

Answer: It’s your decision on how you distribute, and your will or trust can be structured accordingly. However, have you thought through your approach?

Most parents raise children out of a common pot, providing for each one’s unique needs from the same account. Comparing the costs of raising them is a slippery slope.

Does one get more because she did not require braces? The other less because he failed math, took a summer course and could not work a summer job?

I question the wisdom of adjusting inheritances based on uncontrollable childhood circumstances and youthful choices. Also, it could create animosity between siblings.

It’s another matter to base unequal inheritances on what you’ve given them in their adult years. Children tend to understand and respect that approach. For example, if you gave one a sizable down payment to purchase a home, you may want to deduct that from his inheritance.

Whatever you decide, make sure you consider the impact on the relationship of your children and grandchildren after you pass away.

A Funeral Full of Strangers

written by Bay Area Estate Planning Attorney Carmen Rosas

As I was watching the news last night, I heard about a man named Harold Percival. The attendees at his funeral were all strangers. Mr. Percival, age 99, died in a nursing home last month. He did not have any close family members, nor was he married.

The thought of this made me both heartbroken and relieved. Heartbroken, because I could not imagine what it would be like to live to be 99 without having family or friends that would attend my funeral (or present in my life for that matter!) Relieved, because there are still people out there who would honor a man they have never met.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” -John Donne

Have you thought about your funeral arrangements? Would you want to be cremated? It’s not a topic everyone is anxious to discuss, but it’s important.

Have you thought about the legacy you want to leave behind? Are you a d0-g0oder who volunteers? Are you a workaholic? A veteran? How do you want to be remembered? legacy

I think too often we all forget how quickly and unexpected death can come. It’s important to live our lives exactly how we want to. Be happy. Do your best to not get angry. Love, just love. But most of all be true to yourself and the legacy you hope to leave behind.

When you pass away, years down the line those who remember you will talk, and say “I remember ____(insert name). He/She was such a ______”- what life are you living and what will those blanks be?

And if for some reason you live beyond your friends and family, the life  you live may touch the hearts of strangers- so much that they will attend your funeral.

A little ray of hope in humanity has been restored!

Don’t let your child’s guardian be an embezzler!

Over the weekend, I came across an article about a guardian who was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for embezzling hundreds of dollars from an account he was a guardian of.

Attorney Michael Brown was sentenced to 40 years, with 10 suspended, on two counts of embezzlement related to the estate left to the grandson of late civil rights leader Aaron Henry. Henry led the NAACP until he passed away in 1997 and left his estate to his only daughter, who died in 2000. One of Henry’s grandsons was a minor at the time and Brown was appointed by the court to be a guardian of the estate. Rather than keeping the funds in a separate trust, and placed it in an escrow account.

You can read more here, but the moral of sharing this story is: “Select a Guardian YOU can trust!” 

Don’t leave assets in your minor child’s name. Doing so subjects those assets to be dealt with in court and possibly in the hands of an individual who may embezzle from your child.

As mentioned in our previous posts, selecting a guardian is one of the BARE MINIMUM things you can do as a parent.

If you haven’t already selected a guardian, you can do a few things to get started:

1) Request our 12 Tips for Selecting a Guardian (which is free- just shoot us an e-mail);

2) Keep an eye out for our Guardianship Workshop to learn how to appoint a guardian; or

3) Schedule your own workshop with friends/families/parent groups to teach you how to appoint a guardian.