When you have children, your whole life changes. You are now responsible for the life and well-being of a child. It is your job to love, nurture, and provide for them for the next 18 years and beyond. Though every parent’s wish is to be able to be there for their children from birth to adulthood and beyond, realistically, it’s not always what happens.
Unfortunately, there are circumstances in life that prevent a parent from being able to raise their children to adults. Should something happen to you like an accident with severe disabilities, a life-threatening illness, or death, who will be there to raise and protect your children?
Estate planning is something that parents should be considering during pregnancy or just after their children are born. This is the process of deciding how your assets such as houses, cars, businesses, cash, clothes, jewelry, and other belongings will be transferred in the event of a serious mishap or your untimely death.
Working with an estate planning attorney will help you to select guardians for your minor children, ensure your assets are divided properly among your beneficiaries, and avoid paying too much in taxes and other fees. Here’s a more extensive look at how estate planning works to protect your family:
Create a Will
Believe it or not, most people don’t have a will. A will is a legally binding document designed to carry out your last wishes for your estate and family. Without one, your family could have a hard time securing the assets you’ve left behind for them. When no will is present, the state gets to decide how your assets are divided. Any property or money you’ve left behind for your minor children gets put into a conservatorship where a court-appointed representative becomes responsible for managing the finances for your children.
This isn’t what any parent wants. Knowing that dealing with your loss will already be hard enough on them, essentially you want to make the process of moving on as easy as possible. An estate planning attorney will make sure this happens by helping you to draft a will that keeps the court system out of your final affairs.
Selecting Guardians for Minor Children
Should you pass away when your children are small you’ll want to know that you have someone you can trust taking care of them. If you’re married and survive your spouse, obviously, the kids would be cared for by your spouse. However, should both of you pass away, if you have not appointed a guardian, the court will do it for you. They obviously don’t know the people in your life as well as you do, and, therefore, might select someone you wouldn’t want your children to be raised by.
If you have a solid estate plan and will in place, however, you avoid this chaos altogether. By planning these things now, you have the time to choose someone you know would raise the children just as you would.
Set Up Living Trusts
After your passing, allocating your assets to your loved ones can take months or even years without the right protections in place. They could end up spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars in court to fight for what they believe to be rightfully theirs. In some cases, they may even end up with nothing.
A living trust is a legal document that helps families to divide assets quickly and efficiently without the intervention of probate court. Basically, all of your assets are transferred into a trust while you’re living. Upon your death, the assets within the trust are then distributed to the rightful parties with the help of your designated trustee. This is someone you know and trust who will be responsible for locating and providing assets to your surviving relatives.
You’re a new parent now. You’re thinking about the lifetime of memories and times you’ll share as you raise your children to become upstanding adults. The last thing on your mind is something happening to you that renders you incapable of caring for your kids. Yet, the reality is that these kinds of things happen all the time. If you and your spouse have not properly prepared for the worst-case scenario, it can leave a lot of hard work and stress for your surviving loved ones to deal with. Take the time now to protect your kids by talking to an estate planning attorney about getting your final affairs in order now.