Cinderella lost her mother when she was very young. Her father remarried in an attempt to create a family for Cinderella, wedding a woman with two daughters of her own. Apparently things were hunky dory when when dad was alive, but sadly, he also died when Cinderella was still a young girl. At that point the step-mother became the step-mother that all step-mothers since have tried to disassociate themselves from.
What went wrong?
Cinderella’s dad, believing his second wife to be a loving mother to his daughter, left all his fortune in her control and his daughter in her care. However, step-mom prioritized her biological daughters and was imprudent with the money, leaving the family in less fortunate circumstances than they had been. In order to conserve the money that was left, Cinderella was turned into the family housekeeper, cook, and all around caretaker, while the step-sisters and their mother were pampered with what remained of the inherited money.
Cinderella’s dad may not have been able to know what would happen after his death, but he could have made far better preparations for his family, and his daughter in particular, that would have minimized the unexpected turn in his wife’s behavior. While step-mothers do not always turn on their step-children, they do sometimes run into other circumstances that can thwart a deceased parent’s intent. Severe illness, serious accidents, drug addictions, mental illness, early onset dementia, and other things can derail even the kindest step-parents. The desire to protect against unknown events is a great reason to set up safeguards in your estate plan when it comes to providing for minors or disabled children.
A better choice
Instead of leaving everything in the unfettered control and discretion of his second wife, Cinderella’s dad should have considered having a separate trust set up for his daughter, to be used solely for her needs or accumulated and given to her when she reached majority. This would have prevented the step-mother from diverting all the funds away from Cinderella, or given Cinderella a remedy if the step-mother failed to meet her fiduciary duties as trustee. He could have even had a trustee other than the step-mother, to provide an additional point of view in the care of his daughter.
With better planning on her dad’s part, Cinderella may have been able to see more choices for her future than merely securing a rich prince to care for her needs. After all, not everyone can get a prince, so we need to give our children the means to go forward on their own.
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