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c019305Whether you’re wealthy or not, and whether your estate planning issues are complicated or simple, if you have a child under age 18, you need a Will, because you should nominate a guardian for your child.

The guardian will act for your child (the “ward”) with the range of parental responsibilities and authority you’d have, if you were living.

How is the Guardian Selected?

In Kentucky, decisions about appointment and removal of guardians are made by District Courts.

When appointing a guardian, the District Court appoints the person or entity who would be in the best interest of the minor, taking into consideration the person or entity nominated by the last surviving parent, or by the minor

In his or her Will, the last surviving parent of a minor may nominate a guardian for a minor, to have care, custody, and control of the minor.

A minor age 14 or older may appear in District Court or before a judge to nominate his or her own guardian.

The minor’s opportunity to nominate his or her own guardian takes precedence over a previous appointment by will or otherwise before the minor was age 14.

If you think your child between age 14 and 18 will nominate someone as guardian you don’t think is optimal (or even suitable), your Will should state your preference for the guardian you want, and explain why you think that person is better than other alternatives.

While there is no guarantee the court will prioritize your preference for a guardian over your child’s, as the Kentucky Lottery once famously said: “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

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historic_locust_grove_louisville_kentuckyPeople often decide between renting or buying a place to live based on preferences and instinct: What do you want to do?

If they are incrementally more analytical, they may explore “how much house” they can “afford”. This approach is grounded in capabilities. What can you do?

I think the most useful approach to important financial planning decisions like buying vs. renting your home is one grounded in optimization: What should you do?

Owning a house has costs – lots of them. These include mortgage payments of principal and interest, property taxes, and homeowners’ insurance. While you own a house, you have to maintain it, and when you sell it, you’ll pay real estate commissions.

Owning a house also has benefits, including the rent you don’t pay, and the “forced savings” feature of paying down principal on your mortgage over time.

I created a model to compare renting and buying.

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Should You Get a Prenuptial Agreement?

JFK_JackieOWhether or not to get a prenuptial agreement before getting married isn’t an easy decision.

The advisability of a prenup turns in large part on whether the default law that will govern the marriage if it ends by death or divorce is agreeable.

If you can live with the default rules, a prenup might not be needed.

If the default rules present problems, then a prenup may make sense.

What are the default rules for marriage, without a prenup? In Kentucky, they fall into four main areas: estate administration, alimony, division of property, and liability for your spouse’s debts.

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The announcement this week of the closure of Sweet Briar College after the end of this semester was significant and sad news.

Sweet Briar was pressured by declining enrollment and a deterioration in pricing power. The board’s decision to yield to this trend while the college still has a large endowment to help fund an orderly wind-down is, perhaps, responsible.

Yet it’s still quite painful and abrupt for faculty, students, staff, and alumnae.

Sweet Briar alumnae, reasonably, seem upset that the board took its decision without consulting them.

A more open conversation about how to best serve Sweet Briar’s mission of being a cohesive, rural community for the liberal arts education of young women might have developed options.

I can think of several — a boarding school offering a post-graduate year with transferable college credit, a think tank focused on women’s education, or an intensive freshman year liberal arts program governed by a consortium of research universities (perhaps Southern ones).

These outcomes would have preserved the place and its memories for alumnae, even in changed circumstances. It’s unclear, though, whether those options were considered. Some alumnae are exploring legal options, but it may be too late to do anything effective.

The Sweet Briar story made me think about whether a Kentucky nonprofit corporation could be designed to avoid an episode like the college’s abrupt closure. I think it could be done rather easily.

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Graduate-PlasticsI believe effective life cycle estate and financial planning is anchored in the Quadrant of Facts, Forecasts, Life Stages, and Unexpected Events. Over the past several weeks, ten posts covered a lot of territory about Facts and Forecasts.

This is a pivot point at which we begin exploring planning issues in the first of several Life Stages: Early Adulthood. when one is post-college but still single.

Early Adulthood has several Facts, but the biggest one is Time: you have a lot of it, because your life expectancy is long. Over time, small variances in human capital formation (the driver of future earning power) or savings rate in Early Adulthood compound into very large differences in your Total Income Statement and Total Balance Sheet. Another Fact of Early Adulthood tends to be a relatively low income.

Early Adulthood is invariably a time of Forecasts: Where is the best city to live? Will this person make a good spouse? What career will make you happy? Will your career succeed? Like any Forecasts, these may turn out to be wrong. In Early Adulthood, it’s particularly important to build resiliency into your planning in the event your Forecasts miss the mark.

Career development is one of the two key projects of Early Adulthood (the other is family formation). Three key elements of career development include skills acquisition (making sure you’re good at doing something), career exploration (finding something to do that you like), and networking (coaxing serendipity to work in your favor). Over the years, I’ve identified what I think are three “best in breed” resources for each of these elements.

For those reading this post who are not Early Adults, these books would make great gifts for Early Adults you know (although yes, you will run the risk of being the “Plastics” Guy from The Graduate at presentation time….)

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