When you’ve just had a baby, it may be difficult to think about estate planning. Considering your own mortality and making arrangements should you die unexpectedly are challenging tasks for new parents. However, if you want to protect your children and their futures, it’s important to think about who you would choose as a guardian if you or your spouse died and how your children would be supported financially. It’s never too early to ask these questions, no matter what your personal circumstances.
Choosing a Guardian
A guardian is someone who will take care of your children, physically and/or financially, should you die before they become adults. Choosing a guardian is one of the most difficult decisions you make as a parent. In fact, the difficulty of picking a potential guardian is so great, it causes many people to put off estate planning altogether.
It’s common for people to be apprehensive about this decision; however, there are ways to move forward in making a choice you feel confident about:
- Take your time, and think long-term. Consider whether the person you want as guardian now can also manage the task in the future.
- Name more than one guardian. This may reduce the pressure along with the worry that a single person could also die unexpectedly, leaving your children without someone to care for them.
- Talk to your spouse about the type of parenting skills, religious beliefs, stability, and living situation you want your children exposed to.
Caretakers, Wills, and Trusts
The simplest way to name a guardian or trustee is by creating a will. A will also allows you to determine what properties and assets you will leave to your children.
Usually, a guardian will take on two separate but related responsibilities:
- Caring for your child’s physical well-being
- Safeguarding the inheritance you left for them
When you write a will, you decide who will take care of your children and determine which properties, assets, and other items they will receive when you die. However, wills should not be considered failsafe documents. First, they must comply with California state law to be legal. If you don’t prepare your will according to California law, it could be found invalid or be challenged when you die. Second, wills can still be taken to probate, depending on how much the courts think your estate is worth.
Since wills are relatively simply documents, many parents also choose to create a living trust. This document has several advantages over a will:
- A trust can be set up, managed, and altered when you’re still alive, giving you flexibility to make changes as you see fit.
- Trusts are better for setting conditions, in the event you want some portion of your children’s inheritances to be used only for education, or if you expect your children’s guardian to make wise investments on their behalf.
- Since trusts can be multigenerational, it’s easier to anticipate and minimize California inheritance taxes on assets and properties.
One benefit of a trust is that it allows you to add and remove assets and funds as you see fit, while setting precise conditions on who can access a trust and how.
Your Estate Is More Than Property and Assets
When planning your estate to include your children, you should also consider your insurance coverages. Purchasing life insurance and/or disability insurance are two ways to ensure that your children possess adequate money to stay financially afloat in the months or years after your death.
If you already have insurance, you may want to check whether there are any upgraded coverages available for new or expectant parents. Would your current rates and prospective pay-outs cover your partner’s needs as well as your child’s? Do they account for future housing costs, college tuition, or other necessary expenses?
Even if you’re covered by your job, some attorneys recommend picking up a secondary policy just in case your professional plans are derailed by injury, a crippled economy, or anything else.
Getting Started Doesn’t Have to be Intimidating
Your children’s security warrants careful planning and a well-considered contingency plan. Appointing a guardian, setting up a trust, and deciding how you’d like to distribute your assets are the best ways to ensure that your child’s future is protected if you should die.
Depending on your particular circumstances, you may have more options. Even if you’re familiar with California law, you should contact The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. to assist with your estate planning needs.
Do You Need To Speak With An Attorney About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.