As a soon-to-be parent, you want to make sure that your little human is completely taken care of, from the minute you hear that first cry. The preparations begin months before the arrival of your bundle of joy, and the internet is full of all kinds of advice for parents, checklists, to-dos, tips & tricks, and must-haves.
But what you might not get a lot of, is advice about the importance of certain legal documents.
So if you’re ready – Here is your #1 estate planning advice for parents to be…
Prepare Your Estate Plan BEFORE your due date!
Generally called – an Estate Plan – includes such documents as a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Advance Healthcare Directive, and even trusts.
Granted you have plenty to think about and do (like sleep) as a new parent, putting “setting up an estate plan” on your pre-baby to-do list is the way to go.
So let’s break down the importance of each document within the estate plan, and what it has to do with being prepared for the arrival of your baby.
Last Will and Testament – To Name Your Baby’s Guardian
You may think that a Will only serves the purpose of dividing your assets among your loved ones. But a Last Will and Testament has 2 other very important roles – To name the executor of your estate & to name guardians for your minor children.
Some pointers for selecting your child’s guardian:
- Make sure that whoever you choose has the physical, emotional, and financial means to take care of a child.
- A good pick might be a family member (like a grandparent or aunt) or a close family friend, that already loves your precious baby and is familiar with your style of parenting.
- If your first choice is unable to perform the task at hand, due to age, illness, or any other circumstance that may occur between now and whenever they are needed – Name a backup guardian!
Advance Healthcare Directive – Who Will Make Medical Decisions On Your Behalf?
I personally have two kids, and let me tell you, childbirth is no walk in the park. Sure, you get the odd story here and there about a birth that took 2.3 seconds and everyone is happy and healthy. But that is not always the case, and it’s better to be legally prepared for someone else to make the tough decisions if you are unable to do so.
Also included in the healthcare directive is a document called a Living Will – this document defines a person’s wishes related to end-of-life care and covers things like when, and whether to continue life support in certain circumstances.
The latest Connecticut form includes what to do if you are pregnant and in need of life support. It’s not just your life you’re caring for right now!
“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
Maya Angelou – “I Know Why The caged Bird Sings”
Power of Attorney – Who Will Make Financial Decisions On Your Behalf?
Similar to the Advance Healthcare Directive, the Power of Attorney document allows you (the principal) to name the person who would make the financial decisions for you (the agent).
Power of Attorney documents come in all shapes and sizes. In CT, your power of Attorney is already durable – meaning it remains valid after incapacitation. There is also a Springing Power of Attorney – that only springs into action once a predetermined event has occurred.
As well as a Limited Power of Attorney, that takes effect only for the duration of a specific event and ends when the event ends. For example, the signing of a legal document on your behalf.
Good advice for soon to be parents is not just about what brand of burp cloths to buy or what toys are avilable on the bouncer. it’s covering your financial and healthcare bases before you take on the monumental and rewarding task of keeping another human alive.
Trusts – Put Money Away For Your Child’s Future
When establishing a trust for your minor children, there are a few tasks you need to get through first.
- Name a trustee for your trust – If your child is still a minor or simply not very good with money, the trustee will be the one responsible for following the parent’s wishes and distributing the funds accordingly.
- Make a few decisions as to the nature of the trust – revocable or irrevocable, and how will the funds be distributed, and when. For their education and health only? To help pay for a home or a wedding? Should they receive sums when they reach certain milestones, like a certain age or college graduation? All these questioned can be addressed with your estate planning attorney.
- FUND THE TRUST. Seems obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised as to how many people create a trust, and then just forget to put anything in it. For a trust for a child, you just need to make sure your will and beneficiary designation include the trust.
A thorough estate planning attorney will walk through these steps with you. be sure to seek proper advice and guidance. Don’t risk your baby’s future with DIY mistakes.
As far as advice for parents goes, Making your Estate Plan a part of your birth plan is one of the most responsible things you can do for your child. Changing diapers and giving cuddles may come naturally, but only an Estate Planning attorney can guide you through the legal paperwork of worse case scenarios.
It may seem overwhelming, but some of these things are more important than others. Your estate planning attorney will be able to tell you which documents are right for you, based on your personal situation.
But to be on the safe side, the Last Will and Testament, Healthcare Directive, and Power of Attorney should be at the top of your list.
And the sigh of relief you’ll be able to take after these documents are ready will be priceless. Once you’ve got your legal ducks in a row, check out these 80 tips for parents from parents by Parents.com
Marketing Director & Probate Paralegal at RWC, LLC, Attorneys & Counselors at Law
Ukraine born and Israel / Miami, FL raised. University of Miami graduate in the Marketing field.
Mom to a girl, a boy, and a Siberian Husky.