Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place; however, if you are a single parent the need to have a plan in place is significantly increased. To help you better understand why that is, we will explore estate planning concerns for the single parent.
What Can an Estate Plan Do for Me as a Single Parent?
If you are a single parent, you already know what a difficult job it is. Raising a child by yourself presents challenges that only someone who has done it can understand. Even if you have the support of your child’s other parent, you alone are ultimately responsible for your child’s well-being. You must also make a seemingly endless number of decisions for your child, some of those being relatively unimportant while others can be life-altering. Having an estate plan in place can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have planned for both your child’s future and for the possibility of something happening to you in the meantime. Specifically, a comprehensive estate plan can:
- Ensure that your child receives everything you want him/her to receive if you pass away. If you die without at least a basic Will in place, the State of California gets to decide who receives your assets. Your child would certainly be a legal heir of your estate; however, the only way to ensure that specific assets are passed down to your child is to execute a Last Will and Testament or trust agreement.
- Make sure someone of your choosing becomes your child’s legal guardian is one is ever needed. As a single parent, one of the most powerful reasons to execute a Will is because it offers you the only official opportunity to nominate a Guardian for your child should one ever be needed. Ultimately a court must appoint someone; however, you undoubtedly want the judge to know who your choice would be and the only way to do that is by making it clear in your Will.
- Ensure someone of your choosing guards the inheritance you leave your child. Your minor child cannot inherit directly from your estate. Anything left to a minor child was be held for the child until he/she reaches adulthood. For this reason, parents often use a trust to pass down the inheritance of a minor child. One of the most important benefits of using a trust to distribute your child’s inheritance is the ability to appoint the Trustee of the trust. The Trustee protects and manages the assets you transfer into the trust. Along with choosing who will guard your child’s inheritance, you are also able to create the terms used to distribute that inheritance.
- Help you plan for the possibility of your own incapacity. If you are incapacitated because of a tragic accident or debilitating illness you need to have plans in place for both yourself and your child. Someone must step in and take over control of your assets and make healthcare decisions for you. Someone will also need to care for your child during your incapacity. Without an estate plan in place your family members could end up in court battling over the right control your assets, make decisions for you, and/or take over the care of your child. If that happens, the litigation that follows could cause a divide in the family for many years to come. More importantly, a court might appoint people that you would never trust to take over your assets, your healthcare, or even the care of your child.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning for single parents, or if you are ready to get started on your estate plan, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.