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Guardianship Provisions Essential To a Comprehensive Estate Plan

Guardianship Provisions Essential To a Comprehensive Estate Plan

Football fans (and others) were shocked on December 1st of last year to learn
about the murder of Kasandra Perkins. Perkins had been killed by Kansas City
Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Jovan subsequently committed suicide at
Arrowhead Stadium in front of his coach and the team general manager. The deaths
of Kasandra and Jovan left their four month old child, Zoey, the subject of a
guardianship dispute between Cheryl Shepherd, Zoey’s paternal grandmother, and
her maternal grandparents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins.

Shortly after the murder/suicide, Ms. Shepherd signed a temporary custody
agreement with Gonzalez and Perkins, so that the maternal grandparents could take
Zoey to Texas for her mother’s funeral. Since then, Gonzalez and Perkins have
refused to return Zoey to Missouri and she continues to be cared for by relatives
in Texas. Ms. Shepherd filed a guardianship petition in Missouri and Gonzalez and
Perkins filed a similar petition in Texas. In January, the judges for both cases
held a telephone conference and it was agreed that the proper venue for the
guardianship battle was Missouri. Many legal pundits believe that the temporary
custody agreement significantly hurts Ms. Shepherd’s guardianship case going
forward. Other experts believe the agreement will have little effect on the
outcome of the lawsuit, given the time period and purpose for which it was
executed.

Significant money is at stake in this case. Zoey will eventually inherit her
parents’ assets, including a $600,000 life insurance death benefit, over $800,000
in payments from the NFL, a $100,000 retirement fund, as well as money from a
trust funded by the Hunt family (owners of the Kansas City Chiefs), coaches and
players of the Kansas City Chiefs, and contributions from the public.

This guardianship battle over custody of Zoey and control of her inheritance
(until she reaches age eighteen) is due, at least in part, to the fact that
neither Jovan nor Kasandra left a will designating a guardian for Zoey. Without
such guidance, the court will have to designate Zoey’s guardian without parental
input, based solely on what the judge determines to be in her best interest. The
court might determine that it is in Zoey’s best interest for neither her maternal
or paternal grandparents to serve as her guardian(s).

Another interesting guardianship case involves the child of singer Adam Yauch.
Adam, also known as MCA, died in 2012 at the age of forty-seven, after a three-
year battle with cancer. He was the co-founder of the hip-hop band the Beastie
Boys.

It appears from Adam’s 2001 Will, filed in the New York City Surrogate’s Court,
that he and his wife, Dechen Wangdu, could not agree on who should serve as
guardian of their fourteen year old daughter, Tenzin Losel. The Will contains an
interesting provision that should Dechen be unavailable to care for their
daughter upon Adam’s death, the guardian of Tenzin would depend on the year of
Adam’s death. If Adam died in a year ending in an even number (he died in 2012),
Adam’s parents, Noel and Frances Yauch, would serve as co-guardians for his
daughter. If they were both unavailable to serve as guardian, Adam named Dechen’s
parents, Sonam and Chuki Gangdum, as the back-up co-guardians. However, if Adam
died in an odd year, Sonam and Chuki were designated as the primary co-guardians,
with Noel and Frances to serve as back-up co-guardians.

The designation of a guardian for minor children in each parent’s Will is an
important part of a comprehensive estate plan. There should also be provisions in
the parents’ Wills or trust(s) to provide for the management of the child’s
inheritance. It is possible, perhaps likely, that Zoey and Tenzin will not have
the maturity to manage a large inheritance upon reaching age eighteen. A properly
drafted Will or trust could provide for continuing supervision over the child’s
inheritance until he or she reaches a designated age or has demonstrated
sufficient maturity to be able to handle the funds. Besides Wills (which include
guardian nominations) and perhaps a revocable living trust, a comprehensive
estate plan would include a power of attorney for property for each parent, an
advance health care directives or similar health care documents for each parent,
and a HIPAA Pre-Authorization Form for each parent. In some cases, a trust
certification or affidavit, a general assignment, and a property agreement would
also be part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Our law firm focuses on estate planning and administration for clients of all
levels of wealth. We also offer trust administration and probate services. As a
member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, our firm is kept up
to date with information regarding tax developments as well as cutting edge
planning strategies for persons of all wealth levels. You can get more
information about a complimentary review of your clients’ existing estate plans
and our planning and administration services by contacting our office.

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