Thoughts on Parenting Through Fear

Recently, I rearranged my schedule so that my preschooler could try out a private swim lesson. I watched my youngest daughter sitting at the edge of the pool, looking over at me in tears, begging to go home. I felt terrible. At home, she talks a lot about wanting to swim with her big sister. But at that moment, she was crying, more focused on her fear than on the outcome.

We’re all afraid of something. And for many of us parents, we’re afraid of something bad happening to our kids (or to us). Some of our fears stem from our own childhood experiences. When I was growing up, one of my cousins almost drowned and we lost an uncle in a water-related accident.  For years, I was terrified of the water. I didn’t actually learn to swim until college. So naturally, I worry about my own kids when they’re around water.

In life, there are risks all around us. Because we can’t live in a bubble, we take steps to try to reduce those risks. And as parents, we try to educate ourselves about different dangers out there and take steps to protect our kids. My family’s house has a pool. Before we even moved in, I insisted that a child-proof fence be installed. As I watched the installer set up the fence, I breathed a sigh of relief. But I knew that I couldn’t stop with just the fence.

So my husband and I enrolled our preschoolers in group swim lessons. Our eldest took to the water immediately. But our youngest daughter has struggled. Almost one year later, she still hasn’t moved up to the next level. She panics and freezes up during lessons. She clings to her instructors, and at home when we try to practice, she does the same thing. She says she wants to swim, but she’s scared.  I could try to teach her myself, but I prefer to leave that to an expert. I’ve never taught anyone how to swim, and I feel like I’m too emotionally invested in the situation.  So that’s how I ended up at a private swim lesson on a weekday morning.

I worried about my daughter never overcoming that fear. And even though we’ve taken precautions, I couldn’t shake the thought of her slipping into our pool and not being able to make it out on her own. I weighed our options:  continue the lessons or take a break.

As a mom, one of my biggest priorities is making sure that my kids are safe and in good hands, no matter what happens. I’m careful about who watches my kids and I’ve even made arrangements for who would care for them if something bad were to happen to me and my husband.

I want my kids to be safe and feel safe. I don’t want them to worry like I did as a kid. Growing up, one of my relatives wasn’t the nicest guy to be around. But he had a good job and was married and had kids of his own. I knew that my parents admired him. One time, I overheard my parents’ conversation about life insurance and who would take care of my brothers and me if something bad happened to them. I was terrified of the idea of losing my parents and having to live with that relative. To this day, I don’t know what would’ve happened to us if something bad had happened to our parents.

Eventually, the coach coaxed my daughter into the water, led her in a splashing game, and got her to relax. Slowly, he got her to float on her back. She cried and scrunched up her face. Then he let her take a break and they tried again. At the end of the lesson, my daughter shivered and sighed, exhausted from her efforts. As I wrapped her in a towel, I dried her tears and asked her how she felt. She said, “Mama, that was fun. I want to swim again.” I wasn’t expecting to hear that at all.

I’m so grateful to that kind and patient swim coach who stuck with her and knew just what to do to help her. My daughter may not turn out to be an Olympic swimmer (but anything is possible!), but the lesson ended on a good note. Still, I think we’re going to take a little break from swim lessons.

I have faith that at some point, she’ll learn to swim. I’ll continue to encourage her in the water, and of course I’ll be vigilant about the pool-fence and water safety. We’ll try formal lessons again next year. In the meantime, I’m learning to get a grip on my parenting fears. I’m doing the best I can, taking it one day at a time.

Myrna Serrano Setty is a wife, mom and lawyer living in Tampa, FL. She helps people love and protect their families through estate planning. To learn more about her work, visit serranosetty.com, subscribe to her free newsletter at info@serranosetty.com, or call her at (813) 514-2946.

 

A Look at Carrie Fisher’s Semi-Failed Estate Plan

Whether your estate is modest or movie star worthy, the value of a good estate plan, properly handled, cannot be underestimated. A comprehensive plan can mean the difference between an expensive and unnecessary “time spent in court headache” for your loved ones or an easier “in your lawyer’s office” transition that allows your family time to grieve in peace. When a high-profile celebrity passes away, we can learn a lot about the value of careful planning when using their estate plan as a case study.

Carrie Fisher is one of the celebrities whose proactive, yet faulty, planning gives us an excellent example to illustrate some key points that are important for you to understand for your family.

Even though Carrie Fisher worked with some of the best (read: most expensive) lawyers in Los Angeles, and she had created a trust to hold her assets, her estate plan failed, in our opinion, because it didn’t keep her assets out of court and passing privately to her heir, Billie Catherine Lourd.

Instead, Fisher’s lawyer created a Trust, and never ensured Fisher’s assets were transferred into the Trust. And while you may think this is malpractice on the lawyer’s part, it’s actually common practice. We see this all the time when clients come to us with prior prepared estate plans — they’ve got beautiful documents that will not work when their families need them because their assets were never properly inventoried and transferred. Fisher’s death brings this major issue in estate planning to light. As a result, Fisher’s Trustee, Dennis King, had to file a petition in probate court seeking to have Fisher’s assets transferred into her Trust.

When you create a Trust, you want to keep your family out of Court and keep your affairs totally private. Because Fisher’s Trust was not properly funded (the legal terminology for making sure your assets are transferred into Trust so you can keep everything private and out of court), all of her assets and who will receive them have been made public. As a result, we know that Fisher left her estate to her daughter, Billie Lourd, and that it included cash accounts, several LLCs, real estate, a life insurance policy, personal belongings, and intellectual property rights. Having this information public leaves Lourd at risk. Unscrupulous parties now have access to details they wouldn’t otherwise know.

This is exactly why a key part of our planning process is a thorough inventory of your assets, ensuring your assets are transferred into your trust (if you choose to keep your family out of court) and then a review of your assets and planning documents at least every three years, if not annually. Proper estate planning can keep your family out of court and save your family precious time and money in the process. If you’re ready to create a comprehensive estate plan, start by sitting down with attorney Myrna Serrano Setty.  And, if you already have a plan in place, contact us to have it reviewed.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps folks make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for themselves and their loved ones. To schedule a Life and Legacy Planning Session, call Myrna at (813) 514-2946.

 

 

Disasters: Think Beyond Hurricane Season

Hurricane Irma recently ripped through the Caribbean and Florida, wreaking havoc and devastating many lives. For many of us, Irma’s impact will linger for months and years to come.

As Floridians braced for Irma’s arrival, the sense of urgency and fear was intense. People rushed to buy food, water and fuel and to protect cherished family photos and documents.  And as Irma closed in on Tampa Bay, there were mass evacuations. We all wanted the same thing: to protect ourselves, our families and our property.

Sadly, it doesn’t take a huge hurricane to wreck our lives. In the event of death or disability, what would happen to our loved ones?  During a time of intense grief, would our loved ones be able to carry on? What can we do to help them manage?

Start by taking this brief quiz:

  1. Do your loved ones know where to find your important documents and how to access them? Are there codes or keys? Are you sure they can access the bank’s safe deposit box?
  2. Do you have a Will, a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney? If yes, when was the last time that you read them?
  3. If you have minor children and you and your parenting partner aren’t available, who has the legal authority to take care of your children? Who do you want to take care of your children?
  4. Do you have life insurance? If yes, who is the beneficiary? Is the back-up beneficiary a child?

Now that Irma has passed, we’re cleaning up and trying to go back to normal. Now is the perfect time to reflect on how we handled the storm and on how we can improve for next time. Regardless of our level of wealth or material possessions, we all have someone and something that we want to protect. It’s worth thinking about now, before it’s too late.

You can contact attorney Myrna Serrano Setty at (813) 514-2946 or info@serranosetty.com to book a Life and Legacy Planning Session, where you can learn how to protect your loved ones, no matter what happens.

Contingency Planning Tips

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, we are reminded of the necessity of disaster planning. You have most likely seen news stories suggesting exit routes, communication plans, and stocking up on necessities. But it is equally important to think about contingency planning – making sure your family is prepared and taken care of in the event of your death or disability. While this is not an easy topic to think about, it is important to have a plan in place. The following are some simple and immediate steps you can take to ensure your family’s security and mitigate the impacts of disasters beyond your control.

Part 1: Create a List
The easiest way to begin contingency planning is by creating a list of important information and giving it to your spouse, designated family member, or trusted advisor for safekeeping. Tailor that list to your own needs and preferences. Consider including the following information:

Contact Information for your advisors: attorney, accountant, investment advisor, insurance agent,  and funeral home
Contact Information for your child’s caregivers/schools
Location of Key Items/Documents: Location of your safe deposit box and key, estate planning documents (wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills and letter of intentions), business agreements (e.g. partnership or LLC agreements, buy-sell agreements), real estate and loan documents (deeds, mortgages), vehicle titles, burial plot deed/title, and family heirlooms
Insurance Information (Life, Health and Long-Term Care): Location of policy or insurance card, name of carrier, policy number, and benefit amount
Retirement Asset Information (401(k), 403(b), IRA, Pension): Name of custodian, account number, and beneficiary
Investment Assets/Bank Accounts/ Credit Cards: Location of accounts and account numbers
Trust Interests: Name of trust, interest, and contact information for trustee(s)
Passwords: How do you store your passwords? Do you rely on your memory, or store them in a list somewhere on a piece of paper or in a program? Whichever method you choose, it is important to ensure that someone can access your computer and accounts if you are unable to do so. Include the access information on your list

Part 2: Answer These Important Questions
The next step is to answer some basic questions about your estate plan to ensure that it is up-to date and carries out your intent.

1. Do you have a current estate plan, including a will, revocable trust (if appropriate), financial power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and living will?

2. Has there been a change in circumstances since your plan was drafted, such as a marriage or divorce, birth of child, change in your domicile or assets, or change in tax laws?

3. Does your plan take care of your family and charities in the way that you intended?

4. Do you have the right team in place? Is your named executor, trustee, agent, surrogate, or guardian still living, and, if an individual, does he or she have the skills and time to handle the job? Should you name a corporate fiduciary?

5. Do you have the right amount of life insurance? After payment of taxes, debts, and expenses, will your family be able to maintain their current lifestyle in your absence?

6. Are your retirement plan and life insurance beneficiary designations up to date and coordinated with your estate plan?

7. Is the titling of your real estate and accounts coordinated with your estate plan?

Attorney Myrna Serrano Setty has a breadth of experience in counseling families with their estate planning. She welcomes the chance to guide you in your contingency plans. Call us at (813) 514-2946 to get started on your way to protecting yourself and your loved ones.