As a single parent, your children’s lives are completely in your hands. As a result, it can be scary to consider what would happen to your children if something were to happen to you. For example, you may wonder who would take care of them, feed them, and love them in your absence. Luckily, single parent estate planning provides a way to legally formalize these important decisions. Therefore, all single parents should consider creating an estate plan to care for their children. These plans will protect your children in the event of your disability, incapacity, or death.
The Importance of Single Parent Estate Plans
Estate planning should be a top legal priority for single parents who do not have a reliable co-parent to step in and take over in unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately, severe accidents and untimely deaths do happen, and therefore must be planned for. If you are unable to take care of your minor children, handle financial affairs, or make medical decisions, you must have a plan for someone else to do so.
Five Single Parent Estate Planning Decisions & Tips
Single parents creating an estate plan for their minor children should focus on the following five decisions:
1. Nomination of Guardian for Minor Children
Nominating a legal guardian can ensure your children are cared for in the event of your death, disability, or incapacity. More specifically, California guardianship laws allow an appointed family member or friend to take on one or more of the following tasks:
1) Assume the maintenance and care of your children
2) Make financial, educational, and medical decision on your children’s behalf
3) Report to the court on an annual basis about the guardianship status
All appointed legal guardians must be at least 18-years-old and cannot have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. Depending on your lifestyle or medical condition, you may want to arrange for a temporary or permanent guardianship of your children. Additionally, some parents choose to provide their children’s other parent custody in the case of their incapacitation or death. However, in the event your child’s parent is not fit or able to accept custody, you may use your estate planning documents to nominate another guardian.
Should you die without a will, your children could end up in the custody and control of an unfavorable guardian. That said, a nominated guardian should respect your wishes and your children’s well-being when making important decisions.
2. Creating a Power of Attorney to Handle Finances
In the event you become extremely ill or unable to handle your personal finances, a financial power of attorney will allow you to name someone you trust to handle your finances. More specifically, your attorney-in-fact can manage your expenses, pay your bills, make deposits and withdrawals at your local bank, and monitor your investments. Additionally, this individual can pay expenses for the care of your children in the event you are unable to do so. Contact A People’s Choice for more information about drafting a power of attorney to handle your finances.
3. Writing a Healthcare Directive to Direct Right to Die Plans
An advance healthcare directive is another important aspect of single parent estate planning. This document instructs physicians and other medical professionals about your medical care wishes in the case you are unable to make decisions on your own. That said, the healthcare directive only becomes effective under the specified terms within the document.
Unfortunately, without a spouse, no close family members have authority to make medical decisions for you. Therefore, you can use an advance healthcare directive to either appoint a healthcare agent or make specific written instructions for your wishes. If you choose a healthcare agent, be sure to select a trusted friend or family member. This will ensure you receive medical treatment pursuant to your desires and do not receive medical treatment you do not want to be performed.
4. Planning for Handling Monies for Care of Children
Deciding how to handle monies for the care of your children is a very important aspect of estate planning for single parents. Usually, a single parent does not want the children’s other parent to have control and access to these designated funds. Instead, they often choose to appoint a close family member for this task.
When drafting an estate plan, single parents may consider executing a revocable living trust to ensure their children’s financial needs are considered. This estate planning tool is used to tightly control the handling of monies for the care of your children. More specifically, a trust will specify how and when the monies are used and distributed. Additionally, you can transfer assets into your trust to cover your children’s living expenses. For example, the trust can be used to pay expenses related to education, medical needs, and recreational activities. Also, a trust allows you to appoint a person to administer your monies according to your desires.
5. Protecting Children with Emergency & College Plans
Appointing a legal guardian and creating a living trust are estate planning tools that will protect your children in case of an emergency. As mentioned above, a nominated and appointed legal guardian can make financial and educational decisions on your children’s behalf. Additionally, single parent estate planning can include trust provisions that will allocate funds specifically to cover your children’s college expenses.
Help With Estate Planning for Single Parents
Estate planning for single parents does not have to be costly. In fact, you do not even need a lawyer to draft your estate planning documents! A People’s Choice has prepared estate planning documents for over 40 years, and we offer several different options for single parents’ estate planning. Contact us today for more information on our low-cost single parent estate planning packages. Plan for your children’s care in the case of your death, disability, or incapacitation.