Bringing a child into your family changes your life. It changes the way you make decisions, the way you take care of yourself and the way you plan for the future. It makes sense, then, that having a child can give you new insight into the legacy you wish to leave behind.
Your estate plan can reflect this development, particularly in the following four areas.
- Having a plan in the first place – If you are like many parents, you do not have an estate plan to begin with. People often feel they have no reason to plan for death or incapacity, but having a child can certainly change that. Being a parent means making plans and difficult decisions so that your children do not suffer unnecessarily. Thus, having a child can be the event that pushes you to document your wishes.
- Taking care of your child if you cannot – If you cannot care for your child, someone you know and trust should take on parenting duties. This is why parents assign guardians in their estate plans. If you do not do this, the courts will decide who will serve as the legal guardian for your child, and there is no guarantee that their choice will be someone you or your child would select. Rather than leave their care in the hands of strangers, you can assign guardianship.
- Your thoughts on end-of-life care – After having a child, people can feel differently about what they want in terms of life-saving measures and where they would like to receive long-term care. Therefore, as a parent, you can appoint medical decision-makers, establish your care wishes and provide care-related financial guidance.
- Making financial decisions – Becoming a provider for a child can shift financial priorities and plans. You might set up a college fund for your child or take a less aggressive approach to investments once you have a child, for instance. When it comes to your estate plan, you can name someone to make financial decisions for you to protect your new priorities. You can also protect your property and direct courts on how to distribute it in the event of death.
When you have an estate plan that reflects your wishes as a parent, you give yourself, and perhaps most importantly, your children, the gift of peace of mind.