How to Protect Your Kids

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Cassandra C. Massey, Attorney at Law

'If something happens to you, and you haven't planned an estate or named guardians for your minor children, someone else will be making decisions for you.'

Local Alameda mother and attorney Cassandra C. Massey started her estate law practice soon after her son, William, was born about two and a half years ago.

Cassandra's focus, estate planning for families with minor children, has parents turning their heads to help plan their children's futures. Although Cassandra serves many kinds of clients, as a wife and mother of a young child (and a new baby due in November), Cassandra has a special interest in planning for families with minor children. Cassandra realized that traditional estate planning is geared toward helping people who are much closer to the end of their lives than most of her clients.

This type of planning doesn't adequately protect the needs of children should something happen to the parents while the children are still minors.

Many people accomplish their estate planning, but when the time comes, the documents are usually out of date, and won't do anything for them or their children. They might as well have not done any estate planning at all. "When my client's children are young, the people parents nominated as guardians when completing their initial estate planning, may not be the same people they would nominate just a few years later."

Parents need to keep in mind that as their assets change (for instance, you may have moved to a bigger home, changed jobs with a new insurance policy, or retirement plan) those new assets must be accounted for to keep your estate plan up to date.

Laws change, federal tax constantly changes, and you need to also keep that in mind as that may affect your estate planning.

"I want a relationship with my clients. I don't charge an hourly fee; a flat fee will be determined and agreed to in advance; I don't charge for phone calls or emails, which allows my clients to feel they can contact me for anything, and I include a review of my clients' plan every three years. This insures their plan stays current with their changing family, assets and the law. I focus on really building a relationship with my clients that will last throughout their life," said Cassandra.

Creating a revocable trust is very important, and Cassandra always recommends it if you own your own home, or you have probate assets that exceed $150,000. Assets should be titled properly for maximum protection when establishing a trust. When you create a revocable living trust, you need to fund it. This means re-titling your assets, or updating your beneficiary forms for your retirement plans and insurance policies.

Cassandra has a process in place to assist her clients in making sure all of their assets are titled properly. Title means: if you have a checking account, re-titling your checking account to the name of your trust.

Cassandra also stresses that estate planning is about much more than just the transfer of your financial wealth. "Part of your planning should be the transfer of your most important personal wealth to your loved ones, including your intellectual, spiritual and human assets — who you are and what's important to you." She calls this legacy planning and believes it more important is than transferring your financial assets at death.

If you have minor children, Cassandra makes sure that they are protected through her Kids Protection Plan. This is essential to make sure your minor children are always taken care of by the people you want, and the way you want, if anything happens to you.

Cassandra holds free workshops on kids protection planning, called Estate Planning 101 for Parents: How to Protect Your Kids, at Tot Tank, a local baby store, several times a year. At the workshop, parents can learn nine simple steps to protect their children always. Many times, when Cassandra talks to parents, she finds estate planning very low on their list because they don't have a lot of assets. She tells them, if you have minor children, estate planning becomes even more important.

"If something happens to you, and you haven't planned your estate or named guardians for your minor children, someone else will be making decisions for you. A judge will decide where your children will be placed. And that may not be the best choice for your children.

And, if you have limited resources, it makes a lot of sense to create an estate plan, so you can choose how those resources will be used for your children," said Cassandra.

If you're unable to attend one of Cassandra's workshops but you'd like to learn the nine simple steps to ensure the safety and care of your children, you can request a copy of Cassandra's Kids Protection Planning Guide at www.

Cassandra serves as a personal family lawyer, through the Family Wealth Planning Institute — a national group of attorneys focused on serving the needs of growing families. As a personal family lawyer, Cassandra has made a commitment to her clients to serve as their trusted advisor to help them make the very best personal, financial, legal and business decisions for their family throughout their lifetime.

You can contact Cassandra at 992-6773. Her office is located at 2219 Santa Clara Ave., Suite C. Email her at info@, or visit her website: .


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