Most people would rather clean out the gutters than plan for their family’s life after they die, especially if they’ve just added a new member to the family. But the arrival of a new baby is exactly when you need to make sure you have a comprehensive estate plan in place.
SF Gate’s recent article, “Congrats on Your New Baby! Now It’s Time for an Estate Plan,” says that an estate plan is typically thought of as a series of legal documents created with a qualified estate planning attorney that sets out your wishes for the disposition of your assets and the responsibility for your dependents if they are minors when you die. At Family Estate Planning Law Group, however, we recognize that it’s about something even more important: taking care of your family in the event of your death or incapacity. Let’s look at some of the people your estate plan should take into account.
Children. For many, especially those with minor children, this is the most important consideration: in your plan, you’ll designate the person or persons you want to care for your minor children in the event you and your spouse die unexpectedly. You can designate one or more individuals or family members to live with the child and make medical and other personal decisions that a parent would make. This is typically called a guardian.
With regard to financial matters, it’s usually best to have assets held in a trust and managed, used for the child at the discretion of one or more responsible adults. This person (or people) are called trustee(s). The guardian(s) and trustee(s) may be the same person or different people, but we recommend that a living trust be used to hold assets to prevent court supervision.
Loved ones. Your estate plan will also direct your loved ones on how to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated. This is a big responsibility for the person chosen, so be sure to clearly state your intentions in a Health Care Proxy and consider having a conversation with your designated health care agent regarding your specific wishes. No planning for health-related issues is complete without a HIPAA release, either. Without it, your loved ones won’t be able to access necessary medical records and your doctors could refuse to speak with them.
Your assets. Most people don’t want to go through the probate process and want to structure their estate plan in a way that will save their heirs and loved ones the time, money, stress and grief often associated with the process. However, to successfully avoid probate, you’ll need to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to not only draft a trust, but to align your assets with the trust. If you don’t put your assets in the name of the trust, it’s not owned by the trust and the trust won’t dictate what happens to those assets when you pass.
Also, to avoid misunderstandings or hard feelings among your heirs, detail the reasons behind your estate planning in a Family Care Meeting. You should also take that opportunity to let everyone involved in executing the plan get a handle on their role and responsibilities.
Yes, it may seem a bit morbid to think about death while holding a newborn or celebrating another happy life event. However, creating an estate plan is an important way to take care of those you love. An experienced estate planning attorney will not only create the legal documents that you need, but guide you through the decision-making process, help you align your assets with your plan, make sure that your wishes are clear and—most importantly—that your family is taken care of.
For more information, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: SF Gate (December 22, 2016) “Congrats on Your New Baby! Now It’s Time for an Estate Plan”