When your child or children inherit from you, will they lose it if or when they get sued, if or when they get divorced? Will they squander it? Will the inheritance cause them to lose precious government benefits?

Let’s assume, hypothetically, John and Vicki are happily married retirees who moved here from Ohio two years ago. They have two children, whose names are Dante and Cynthia.

Dante is a successful surgeon. He is married to Jane. They have two children, whose names are Emily and Sue.

Cynthia is an elementary school teacher who is married to Jack. He is a struggling artist. They have one child, Marvin, who is autistic.

John and Vicki have a simple will. An Ohio lawyer prepared it for them 20 years ago. It is “simple” because it basically says everything goes, free of trust, to the surviving spouse; and if and when both parents pass, everything goes to the children free of trust in equal shares.

Now, is this going to be good enough to fully protect them and their family? You decide.

If Dante and Cynthia inherit free of trust, then if they get sued or divorced, they can lose their inheritance. Since they will own the inheritance free of trust, there is nothing to protect the inherited funds from loss in a lawsuit, bankruptcy, or a divorce (if funds get commingled).

If Dante gets sued for medical malpractice, he could lose all his inheritance.

If Cynthia predeceases Jack, and her share goes to her son Marvin, this windfall could jeopardize Marvin’s ability to qualify for government benefits.

All of these things can and often do happen to families who fail to act, who fail to plan ahead to neutralize these threats.

When planning your estate, all of these matters require attention. Professional guidance and counsel is imperative to success in this arena.

The moral of the story is that a little bit of planning can do wonders to keep your assets in your family.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate and elder law planning attorney. mwinnesq.com