It is common that an event or experience will cause someone to take steps to start their estate planning. In my experience, it is the expecting, or birth, of a baby that most often leads people into my office. It may seem that amidst buying baby clothes and developing a birth plan, estate planning would not be a top priority – but for many it is, and rightfully so. Having legal documents in place to plan for and protect your growing family provides necessary protections and priceless peace of mind.
An estate plan generally consists of three documents: 1) a will (or trust); 2) a power of attorney; and 3) a health care directive. Each document achieves a number of goals for new parents.
A Will or Trust
- Naming Guardians. Your estate plan can name a guardian of your children, so that the decision is not ultimately left up to the courts. By having this in place, you are able to name who you would want to care for your children should something happen to you and your spouse or partner. You can also name backups to the primary guardian named.
- Money Management for Minors. Your will, or trust, can also name who you would want to manage money on your child(ren)’s behalf, should they inherit money while still minors. This may or may not be the same as the guardian. This allows you to name the person you know will be best to manage money under these circumstances, and in their best interest of your child(ren). You may even take an additional step and establish trusts, which provide for more protection and control of inherited money.
- Nominating a Personal Representative or Trustee. You can also nominate the person who you would like to manage your affairs and settle your estate (a Personal Representative) or name a Trustee, or Trustees. This person overseas the process of carrying out the wishes in your will or trust, and should be a trusted and responsible person.
- Naming Beneficiaries. Your will, or trust, also names the beneficiaries who are to inherit your estate, and backup to those beneficiaries. This may be particularly important in blended families where one spouse or partner has children from a prior relationship.
Power of Attorney
- The power of attorney form allows you to name an agent, called the “attorney-in-fact”, to manage your financial matters should you be unable to do so yourself. This power is used while you are still alive, and can be instrumental in ensuring your family is provided for and taken care of should something unexpected happen. It is important for spouses to have these documents naming each other. Without a power of attorney in place, your family could find themselves having to get a court appointed guardianship and/or conservatorship in order to access and manage your financial affairs – an oftentimes costly, timely and stressful process.
Health Care Directive
- A health care directive names an agent, called the “health care agent”, to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to do so yourself. It also details what you would wish for those decisions to be, and provides information to help your agents make decisions that would be in line with your beliefs and health care goals. Many expecting mothers like to have this document in place prior to giving birth, as part of their birth plan.
Having a plan in place for your assets should be a top priority, and it does not have to be overwhelming or complicated. When working with an attorney to draft your estate plan, the process should be relatively quick and easy. There can be a long task list when preparing to start or grow your family, but with each accomplished item you are ensuring your loved ones will be best protected and cared for. Schromen Law, LLC provides compassionate representation to new and expecting parents, to help them plan for the worst, so that they can live for the best.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.