Making Time for What Matters Most

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In less than two weeks, the New York State Fair will open its annual twelve day run and families from all over New York and beyond will flock to see the incredible new improvements to the fair facilities, ride the latest gravity defying roller coaster, see the exhibits and animals, and gorge themselves on a smorgasbord of fried foods and lemonade.  It’s a tradition that we all look forward to, and a great opportunity for parents and their kids to share some time together.

The closing of the State Fair also brings an end to summer vacation, time for the kids to put away their sandy flip flops in favor of new sneakers and get on the bus for a brand new year of school.  This summer’s end ritual is a time when all of us with school aged children fall back into the routines we gleefully abandoned in June.  It’s time to set the alarm a little earlier, time to pack lunches, time to make sure the library books make it into the backpacks and that the homework planners get signed so your child can get a sticker from her teacher.

Our Central New York summers are short, and we cherish the time to be outdoors, to swim at Green Lakes, hike around Clark Reservation, and attend a Syracuse Chiefs game or go pick up fresh sweet corn from a roadside stand. Not bogged down by homework and sports practice, dance lessons and violin practice, we have more time to spend with our families, seeking and finding joy in achieving the perfect toasty marshmallow to go on our s’mores, and seeing all sorts of crazy shapes in the puffy clouds above hammocks strung between backyard trees. Summer is a blissful, magical time that we snowbelt dwellers crave the other nine months of the year.

It is also a reminder that just as summer comes and goes away again before we have even finished saying a proper hello, childhood too slips away despite our protests to stay, please stay little. Please don’t ever stop saying psgetti, please always want to clutch your well worn teddy bear to get to sleep at night. Years ago, I read a card that said something to the effect of “We had a very disappointing experience with our children.  They grew up.”  That resonated with me then, and it does now as my own children continue their march onward.

The time we spend with our children is never wasted time. They challenge us, they help us to grow, they fill our hearts with love we never knew we could feel.  They are watching our every move, absorbing, taking it all in.  Show them that they are your priority – put the phone down, turn off the tv. Read together, play catch together, sit on the sideline beaming with pride and cheering them on. Take them for ice cream even if they barely touched their green beans at dinner tonight. Learn “the new math”, which is really not so different from the old math, while you help them with homework. Help them build the best baking soda and vinegar volcano to ever grace a fourth grade science fair. When you make time for them, you are making time for you, too. We glorify the concept of “busy”, but the reality is all of us can make the time for the things that really matter to us. Budget your time – return the emails after your kids are asleep, instead of meeting a client for a drink after work, how about meeting for breakfast after the kids are on the bus?  The saying goes “the days are long but the years are short” – make the most of this precious, fleeting time with your family and you will reap the rewards in every single aspect of your life.

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Mark Wladis

Mr. Wladis, founder of the firm, holds both a JD and an LLM in taxation from the Syracuse University College of Law. His practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, taxation, economic development, and government relations, and he represents individuals and entities across New York State. He serves as chairman of the board of directors of Success by 6 and has served on the boards of directors of a number of other local organizations.

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Utilizing Testamentary Trusts

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Many clients are concerned about the son-in-law and daughter-in-law divorcing their child and walking away with a big chunk of their estate. And why shouldn’t they worry? The divorce rate in America is unfortunately still at a very high level. Parents also worry that someone will target their kids for get-rich-quick schemes, foolish financial investments, or even some well-planned scam. There is the real prospect that your kids could get sued for any sort of civil action and a judgment creditor could walk off with your estate. There is also the situation where a parent isn’t so sure their child could handle inheriting a large amount of money and be left to their own devices.

When you give the inheritance outright to your children after you’re gone, there is nothing you can do to protect those assets or your children. The assets are fair game once control passes from the parent’s estate into the hands of the children. Yet almost every estate plan drafted the traditional way delivers the assets straight into the hands of the children regardless of whether the child is ready for that wealth or not. This is what is commonly referred to as Divide, Dump, and Dissipate. This may conjure images of little Johnny buying that new Maserati instead of smartly investing his money to save up to buy a house.

How can parents make sure that their children do not foolishly waste their inheritance? One option is to provide for a testamentary trust in their Wills. Trusts may make you think of the Rockefellers of the world, but in fact they are a commonly used planning instrument. Say Jane and Joe have 2 kids, ages 21 and 23. Between them, Jane and John have a $1 million estate, with life insurance and retirement accounts included. Hopefully this will continue to grow, but say Jane and John pass away today. With their current estate plan, their two children will each receive $500,000 directly into their bank accounts. Now the children are free to use their inheritance on anything they so choose. The money will also be subject to any divorce proceeding or creditor judgment that may come up in the future.

If the parents provided for a trust to hold the money until the children reached a certain age, say 35 years old, along with an Independent Trustee to make distributions to the children when prudent, the money would be fully creditor protected, which means it would not be subject to divorce judgments or creditor judgments. The Independent Trustee should be a party that shares the parents’ philosophies concerning money management and should be someone that they trust to do the right thing.

Utilizing testamentary trusts is a simple and worthwhile way to ensure that the money you want your children to use in bettering their lives is actually used for that purpose. To discuss this and your other estate planning goals further, contact the attorneys at The Wladis Law Firm.