It is wonderful when grandparents can stay involved in their grandchildren’s lives, sharing those grandchildren’s successes and incorporating grandkids’ special talents and career aspirations – or their special needs – in their own estate planning.  It sometimes happens, though, that, due to a divorce, grandparents’ visitation privileges are affected.

According to Indiana Legal Services, in our state the court can grant visitation rights to grandparents if the court determines that visitation would be in the best interest of the grandchild.  However not all grandparents are entitled to ask for visitation.

A paternal grandparent can seek visitation in Indiana if:

  • the child’s father is deceased
  • the child’s parents were divorced in Indiana
  • the child was born out of wedlock AND paternity is established in the grandparent’s son

A maternal grandparent may seek visitation in Indiana if:

  • the child’s mother is deceased
  • the child’s parents were divorced in Indiana
  • the child was born out of wedlock (whether paternity has been established or not)

The primary right to decide what is best for a child always belongs first to parents who are still married to each other.  “The court will presume that a fit parent’s decisions are in the best interests of the child,” and will probably not interfere with parents’ decision on how much, if any, visitation is given to grandparents, Indiana Legal Services explains.

“Indiana grandparents petitioning for visitation face long odds,” writes Marilyn Odendahl in The Indiana LawyerIn past years, the Indiana General Assembly, the article reports, has entertained proposals to extend grandparental visitation rights and even to expand visitation rights to great-grandparents, but no change in the law has been passed.

As estate planning attorneys, we often find ourselves designing legacies specifically targeting the needs of our clients’ grandchildren.  Factors that require special attention in planning for grandchildren include:

  • Education accounts, including Uniform Transfers to Minors Accounts and 529 Plans,can be tools for reducing the value of your taxable estate and helping with education savings goals.  The grandparent generally maintains control of the account, so part of your estate planning would be naming a successor to take over management of the account upon your death.
  • You can set up a trust stating how you want money you leave to grandchildren to be managed and distributed.
  • Naming grandchildren as IRA beneficiaries.
  • Special needs trusts

As a grandparent, you can use both estate planning and lifetime gifts to help your grandchildren, but spending time with those grandchildren may be the most precious gift of all.
– by Corrina Smith of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates