I am a single mother who has had to work really hard to give my only daughter a good life. Thankfully, God blessed the work of my hands and my food processing company now has branches all over the country. Lately, I have been thinking about planning my estate and writing a Will since I am now a grandmother. Naturally, the bulk of my assets will go to my daughter.
The problem is her husband. As it is, he basically lives off my daughter’s income and my goodwill. I am worried that he will squander everything I have worked hard for. Is there a way to bequeath my property to my daughter without her husband also having rights to them, especially as she now formally goes by his name?
I find your story very inspiring, how you attained success, despite your circumstances. It is also quite admirable that you are giving some thought to the all-important issue of estate planning. Although an early start is always great as it helps you get things in perspective, now is also a good time to start especially as your dependents have increased. You have more dear people to protect.
Estate Planning can be done via a number of tools, including Wills. Since you would however like to control access to your assets even when you are gone, you would require an estate planning tool that is more flexible than Wills. A Will would effect transfer of ownership of the assets to your daughter and once that transfer is effected, there are no further controls on how she manages the assets or who she grants access. You therefore need an estate planning tool which allows for your wishes to be implemented whilst protecting against dissipation by third parties. In your case, that would be a “Trust”.
A Trust is an arrangement which allows you to transfer your assets to an individual or Corporate Trustee to hold for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries listed in the trust document called the “Trust Deed”. This trust deed would contain your beneficiary’s details as well as instructions to the Trustee on how you want your beneficiary to access your assets. Ultimately, this ensures that only the named beneficiary would be able to benefit from your assets following your directions.
We would recommend that you transfer your assets to a Trust and name your daughter as the sole beneficiary of the Trust in the event of your demise. The Trust would ensure that her benefits would be accessible only by her, regardless of marriage, divorce or even death, hereby protecting her benefits from opportunists and con artists, thus assuaging your concern about your son in law squandering your assets. The Trust Deed may also include provisions (known as Spendthrift Clauses) for the gradual transfer of the assets to your daughter, thereby preventing any extravagance and ensuring the sustainability of the Trust and its investments.
You may also consider naming your grandchildren (alongside your daughter) as beneficiaries to the Trust, with strict guidelines that would prevent Guardians (such as your son-in-law) from converting the trust assets to their personal use. Also bear in mind that the content of the Trust Deed would remain confidential as this is one of the advantages of setting up a Trust.
On the flip side, since your son in law is likely to remain a part of your daughter’s life, it might be a good idea to get him some help. Perhaps sessions with career coaches and financial advisers could help him get his life on track. You could also consider having a mother-son moment with him where you inquire into what he would really like to do. You might be able to help in get on track permanently so that his behavior does not affect your daughter adversely or trickle down to your grandchildren.
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