Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

When it makes sense to put parents in your will

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Elvis Presley passed away at the age of 42, leaving his father, Vernon Presley, and grandmother, Minnie Mae Presley, among his surviving relatives.

His last will and testament provided that the residue of his estate was to be available for the support of Vernon and Minnie Mae for the rest of their days. Only after the second of them died (and Minnie Mae actually survived her son Vernon by a year) was the capital of his estate to be given to his daughter, Lisa Marie.

Elvis had done well in life. His movies and music were fantastically popular. He had taken care of his family. He raised Vernon and Minnie Mae from a standard of living near the poverty line and had been in a position to support them for life. Why should that stop just because he happened to die first?

Most people never think of their parents or grandparents when they prepare their estate plan. Elvis made sure that even if he died young, the people who gave him his start in life would always be provided for.

This type of estate planning is not for everyone. Ask yourself the following questions: Are you are already supporting your parents? Is anyone apt to step forward to fill the gap if you die? Do you have enough money to support your parents and still take care of the other important people in your life?

If you answered "yes" to some or all of those questions, then this kind of planning might be for you.

The solution can be simple. A single paragraph can be built into your will having a fund of, say, $200,000 set aside for your parents.

The executors and trustees of your estate can be instructed to pay the money out of the fund and to your parents in regular monthly payments. The payments would end when your parents die, or if there is no lifestyle advantage to be gained from continuing.

Any money remaining in the fund at that stage would then be distributed to the same people who received the balance of the estate. If, for example, the balance of the estate (called the "residue" in legal circles) were divided between your two children, then the remaining contents of the fund would, at your death, be divided between the two children.

Some people really, really, really need to prepare a will that takes care of their parents.

Consider Nancy. She is an only child. Her mom is living in a supported-living facility that costs $3,000 a month. Nancy pays the bill.

Mom's income is limited to OAS, CPP, and a pitifully small pension. The place is way beyond her means without financial help from her daughter.

They use real linen in the dining room. A lot of the men wear dinner jackets. There is a garden her mother likes to sit in.

Here is what clinches the deal. Nancy has cancer. She needs to know that her mom is going to be taken care of. Most of Nancy's wealth will go to her husband, but not all of it. She has a clause in her will setting aside a fund for her mother to keep the rent money flowing after she is gone.

If you want a last will and testament like Nancy's, you might have to be pushy. Some lawyers will push back. They might not understand the situation. You have to tell them, and they have to take the time to listen. Then they have to take extra time and trouble in drafting your will.

Lead the lawyer to the understanding that your situation is unique and your death is important. Better said, that your family is important. You want them taken care of at your death -- even if it takes a couple of hours of discussion with the lawyer during the will-drafting process and a few hundred dollars of extra legal fees.

In the natural order of things, we expect our parents to die before we do. It doesn't always happen that way. Ask the King.

Nancy's story is a real one. Her name and some details have been changed to protect her privacy.

Next month's column: A court refuses to give effect to a will.

John E. S. Poyser is a lawyer with the Wealth and Estate Law Group at the Winnipeg firm Inkster, Christie, Hughes LLP. Contact him at (204) 947-6801 or jpoyser@inksterchristie.ca .

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2009 B7

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