10. Nicole Wipp on Estate Planning

Could you imagine if your life was to end today………   Are you prepared?

I put off these decisions and was suddenly faced with the fact I had not planned, and It was really scary. If you do not plan legally, your children could end up living a very different life than you may want This interview will help you take control and plan for your loved ones and your own piece of mind.

Nicole is an attorney in the state of Michigan and is also licensed in Hawaii. She is here today not as an attorney, but to give general advice on this topic. She suggests you seek an attorney for specific information to your situation.

Her law practice is called, The Family and Aging Law Center. They help families manage crisis and prepare for a crisis.

“Estate planning is an act of love,  When you fail to plan, it causes a burden.”

Nicole Wipp

Nicole was a litigator for many years. She practiced mostly in family law, really it is divorce law. She had a very busy practice, but it just was not satisfying for her. She did help people and felt like she was helping people,  but it was not satisfying to her.

It would stress her out and she became a mother. She had a son,  and her husband wanted her to be more involved and work fewer hours.

At first estate planning seemed like it would be very boring, fill in the blank kind of lawyering. She could not have imagined that as she was not that kind of person. Once she understood how it could really help people, and added in the component of elder law, she became a really passionate advocate of it. It was not a natural fit or something she considered doing during law school.

Finding Your  Passion

Nicole did not have a near-death experience, but it almost felt like it was.   She was at a crisis point in her life when she made the decision to walk away from her old life and started this as a new life.

It is really amazing, what opens up to you when you make the choice to dedicate your self to following what is in your heart.

Nicole was a successful attorney before,  but she is expediently more successful today, now that she is doing what she is passionate about. Her business has grown in leaps and bounds in the last two years and she can say it is because she has pursued her passion, she has the energy for it and it is in her heart to do it.

It took an act of courage and faith to say she was going to walk away, but sometimes that is what needs to happen.

Why Should You Plan Ahead

Life is uncertain. Nicole shared my story, about how I neglected to plan for my children and ended up in the hospital. I had posted on Facebook that I needed help quick, and estate planning is not quick.

Nicole has clients in their 70 s and 80 s that have put off planning because they are in so much denial. None of us are exempted from dying, and there is no planning day as there is a tax day. It is not pleasant to think about and easy to put off.

After Nicole responded to my post, and I realized how much I had failed to plan, and that there was not much I could do from the hospital, I wrote my wishes down on a piece of paper.

A Huge Thank You to Nicole for helping me in the hospital. I felt so alone and scared, and when she answered my questions and helped me out, I felt much better. If you are ever in that situation, reach out to someone, it is better if you are not all alone.

I shared them with my family but knew that I was relying on them to carry them out, as they would not hold up in court. My wish is that this interview will help you be prepared with all your decisions made legal, long before you need them.

Planning in you 30 s 40 s and 50 s

Most of us are in between two dynamics and may have children and parents.

Nicole tells parents of children,  especially parents of minor children, to add up all the money they spend on their children; on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, which these days can be a lot. You will give them everything and spend all the money that they need, but many do not do what is most important.

The worst thing that can happen to your kids if something happens to you, is that something happened to you, but then if you have not planned, it is the second worse thing.

Nicole asks, and it can be harsh, are you really being a good parent if you have not planned for your children

A lot of parents make assumptions that are not true legally. You can not make assumptions about what will happen.

An example, let’s say you’re married, driving with your family in the vehicle and are in a head-on collision; and both you and your husband die. Who will take your kids, do you know

The law does not work in a way that the person you choose can just come and take your kids. You need to plan for who you want to take your children, or someone you do not want may take them.

Sometimes a family will come to court and be inclined to raise your children; money could be involved or there could be other reasons they are interested in raising your children.

The judge may see that one family member has a great job. Maybe you know that their spouse is an alcoholic and would never allow your child to live there.

It could make sense for the judge to give your children to them to raise, although you may never want your children to be raised in this home.

Another family member may have a great heart, be willing to raise your children the way you wanted and not have the best financial picture on paper, yet could be the best person for raising your child. The judge may not give this person your children.

Nicole would choose her sister; she is college educated and is a single mom living in Las Vegas. She is a very loving person and would raise Nicole’s 3-year-old son as well as she could, the way Nicole would have done it. She may not look the best on paper in the family, so Nicole has to make the correct legal documentation.

If you want to have your decision carried out, you need to have proper legal documentation and write down your reasons for making those decisions.

In Canada, I was told your children would be given to a foster home first, before going to family members if you do not have wishes.

Nicole told me that they try to place children with a family member, if possible. As a temporary measure, Child Protective Services may step in and take your child into protective custody until they can find someone. You don’t want that for even one moment. It is scary and you don’t know what will happen.

How To Plan For Your Children

 You need to to have proper legal documents that name who you want to be the legal guardians of your children. This will be a state or province-specific document. Consult your own area-specific legal expert.

It may be a will or a trust, but should not be on a napkin in the hospital!!

You may want to have, what Nicole may call, standby legal documents or limited powers of attorney over your children.

This allows someone to come to take care of your children in a temporary situation until the legal guardian can come and take over.

Nicole’s standby, legal guardian documents include her neighbor. This allows her neighbor to come and have the authority in the event of the emergency, to take of her son, until her mom or sister can come and get her son.

This is a more advanced planning document but can be very helpful.


I asked Nicole if money should be separate. She tells us it is different in every situation, You can keep legal guardianship separate from possession and control of your children’s money.

You may have a loving and great caring person that can not keep a dime in their pocket. You may want them to raise your children but not manage their money. You can name a separate person to manage the money.


You should name one person to be in charge of your children’s money. One spouse could die or they could divorce, and you may not want their spouse to be in control of the money.


 In the USA, children will automatically receive their inheritance at the age of 18 if you fail to plan. We can all agree that most 18-year-olds are not equipped to handle this type of money.

Where this comes into play is with beneficiary designations. Children will receive them at 18 and your 18-year-old may go out and blow it.

Nicole tells us that 25 is about the age that children are equipped to handle money. Some people have a hard time with that, however,  social maturity comes along a lot later than it used to. These things should be taken into consideration.

I asked Nicole how to go about leaving 2 million dollars of life insurance to your children.

She tells us you may do it via a testamentary trust and a will, which doesn’t become mature until after your death. In most states in the USA, it would need a probate process and have a court approval to set up the trust. The terms of the trust, similar to a living trust, You would name the trust named as the beneficiary, and then put in the will.