People end up parenting alone for many different reasons and yet one thing all single parents have in common is the need to pay special attention to estate planning. After all, if every couple with minor children needs to plan for the possibility that something may happen to them, this is doubly true for uncoupled parents. In the absence of another parent—or in cases where the other parent is unfit for the role—the well-being of your child will depend entirely on the planning you leave behind should you pass unexpectedly. With this in mind, all single parents need to ask themselves the following three questions.
1. Who Will Raise My Children Should Something Happen to Me?
Many people end up parenting alone as a result of divorce. In this circumstance, the other parent is usually legally entitled to take custody of your child or children should you die. In instances where the non-custodial parent is unfit or unwilling to take on this role or when no other parent is present, designating a guardian to act in your stead is crucial. Indeed, even when the other parent is available, there are many situations in which you may want to name an alternate guardian.
Choosing a person to serve as a guardian for your minor children is a delicate task. Naturally, you want someone who shares your parenting style and values; however, these are not the only criteria to consider. One’s own parents are often a logical choice and yet if they are of advanced age, you might consider also designating an alternate guardian as a safeguard.
Another complicating factor to consider is the impact moving may have on minor children. In some instances, single parents arrange for the selected guardian to move into their home as a way of reducing the incredible disruption children will already be experiencing in the event that you die. \
Guardianship designations are nuanced matters that carry legal responsibility and so when making your decision it is always wise to speak to an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure you are aware of all of the particulars.
2. How Will Your Children Receive Financial Support in the Event of Your Passing?
In addition to guardianship designations, you will want to think about how to support your children financially in your absence. Life insurance is an affordable approach. However, a minor cannot be designated the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and so, often, single parents create a trust to hold the policy’s proceeds in their child’s name.
One of the many advantages a trust provides is the ability to maintain control over how children may use their inheritance. You might, for instance, restrict the use of certain funds for educational purposes or place an age limit on when they may be received. Once again, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel when working out these decisions.
3. Is Everything in Writing that Needs to Be?
Single parenting is often an overwhelming task and so it can be easy to overlook the need to put such things are guardianship designations into writing. Further, the demands of the role can eclipse the importance of drafting other essential documents, such as financial and medical powers of attorney. These documents designate a trusted loved one or advisor to take financial and medical decisions on your behalf should you suffer incapacitating injury. When parenting alone, the consequences of overlooking these important documents can be severe and so it is important to put them in place.
To learn more about the unique estate planning needs of single parents and to ensure your planning needs are met, do not hesitate to contact the Hailey-Petty Law Firm either by calling (512) 910-8977 in Austin, (210) 570-2458 in San Antonio, or by using the contact form on our website.