10 legal watchouts for parents
Paul Brennan is the principal of Brennans Solicitors, a law firm located on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, where he practices with his wife, Diane in the areas of business law, litigation, property and wills/estates.
Over the years, by working in various countries, he noticed how similar the law can be. He set out to explain the law in a simple and often humorous way.
As your children get older, your childrens’ problems (“CPs”) can become more convoluted than anything that you could have thought up yourself. They can be the type of problem that you contemplated but could not afford at their age.
However, there are CPs which you the parents have created. Not because your children could not be bothered to create their own CPs but due to a general parental enthusiasm on your part to encourage your children in their lives. It is these sanctioned childrens’ problems (“SCPs”) which frequently have a legal slant and together form the Ten Greatest Self Inflicted Legal Mistakes Made by Parents:
1. Guaranteeing your child’s loans. If the loan falls into arrears and the Bank calls in the guarantee parents usually protest that they did not know what they were doing (a common claim of parents). The Courts have even accepted this excuse, and now Banks insist on Independent Legal Advice to ensure that the parents are told that the Bank will take them to the cleaners, in case there was any doubt.
2. Lending money to your child, thinking that you will get it back without a court action.
3. Going into business with your child. The child could decide to walk away and get a job leaving you in a loss-making business in which your capital is invested. There are other variations but most can end with your capital being trapped.
5. Giving your child a house outright. Such a gift should be subject to a loan secured by a mortgage. This will prevent the equity in the house being depleted by unwise marriages. The loan can be forgiven in your Will.
6. Leaving a child out of your will. With so much money around a child that you regard as the black sheep will make a legal claim against your estate and that will upset the whole family. If there are compelling reasons why a child should be excluded from your will, take legal advice to minimise the risk of a claim.
7. Failing to decide who the Guardians of your children will be in the event of your early death. If you cannot decide who the Guardians should be how can you expect the people left behind to make the right decision?
8. Paying off your child’s creditors. Anyone who has been pursued by debt collectors will know how unpleasant this can be. But they cannot get blood out of a stone. If your child is in serious trouble, your money will be needed for other things as the situation develops.
9. Not calling a lawyer when your child is arrested. A well-proven admission is the best evidence for the prosecution. Therefore, you sitting in the police interview while your child admits a crime is not the sort of help that your child needs at that particular time. Instructing a lawyer will at least ensure he gets his or her day in court. He could be innocent.
10. Not providing in your Will that your children can only inherit on reaching the age of 25 years. This will prevent your money being spent on alcohol, members of the opposite sex and other frivolities. You did not get to do it, so why should they?
There are four types of problems: Your own problems (“OPs”) which are serious and baffling though surprisingly similar in nature; other peoples’ problems (“OPPs”) which are less serious and easier with which to deal, CPs and SCPs. Of these, SCPs are the ones that parents should try to avoid or at least limit to five at any one time.
Any parent who wishes to add to this list “having children in the first place” may take comfort in “This Be The Verse” by Philip Larkin who in 1984 declined the position of Poet Laureate.
The author has four children.