After Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee, whose remains were found in woods near her Florida home, Casey’s parents slipped quietly from the courtroom.  On the news coverage, it appeared that the commentators were spuriously speculating on the relationship that Casey would have with her parents after she was released.

Would Casey dare go home after throwing her parents “under the bus” to win her freedom?  How could she face her father?  Maybe she could go home.  After all, her mom took the fall by claiming she did the awful computer searches on how to use chloroform.  I don’t know how, or if, the Anthonys will knit themselves together.  I do see an applicable lesson for estate planning.

Many parents put a child’s name on their property in an effort to avoid probate.  They figure that the property will go directly to the child when they die.  Legally it works, but it can often cause problems.  I always tell my clients to avoid this, because “kids are like yogurt, you never know when they will go bad.”

You may find yourself saying, “My child is a great kid.  She will not murder her child or commit any crime.  We are a very functional family.”  You are probably right, but consider this.  If you put your child’s name on your house and they are in an accident, the judge can take their half of your home to settle a claim.  Likewise, if your son is on your deed and he gets divorced, his ex may be given part of your home as the settlement.

It’s a much better idea to form a trust to avoid probate, rather than putting your child’s name on the deed.  It takes away the danger of a potential problem, and if your daughter ever tries to throw you under the bus, you can change your beneficiary without her signature.

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