Single parents are master multi-taskers, but estate planning is one item they can't afford to leave off their to-do list. If you're a single parent, it's crucial that you consider who will care for your child if you are physically unable to do so.
As part of your will, you must choose a guardian for your minor child. Ideally, you should choose an alternate as well. Even if you've already discussed the issue at length with the person you've selected, there's always the possibility that circumstances will change and he or she won't be able to fulfill the role. If there is no appropriate alternate, it will fall to the court to choose a guardian for your child.
If your child's other biological parent is still living, he or she would have a strong claim for custody, despite what your will states. If you have reason to believe that your child's other biological parent is not a fit guardian, you should discuss this issue with your attorney.
You must also plan carefully with regard to your assets. Like most parents, you probably want them to pass to your child, however, estate planning attorneys caution single parents against leaving assets directly to minor children. In most cases, it is best to establish a trust and designate the proceeds from the trust to be used for your child's care. The trustee can be the person you've selected as the guardian of your child, but you can also name a different individual if you have concerns about the guardian's ability to handle the responsibility of managing the trust.
If you have a 529 college savings account for your child, do not forget that you must name a successor owner on the account. The successor owner has the authority to change beneficiaries and withdraw funds, so it's vital that you name someone you can trust to use the proceeds for your child's educational expenses. Depending upon the type of account you have, you may be able to include this asset in your trust.
Finally, you should execute a durable power of attorney for finances and health care. This gives the person of your choosing the authority to manage your money and make decisions regarding your medical care if you become ill or injured and unable to handle these tasks on your own.
How Can We Help?
If you are in need of legal representation relating to an estate planning issue, please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at info@PasadenaLawOffice.com. Our family practice attorneys are happy to meet with you to discuss your concerns and develop a customized estate plan that will best meet your needs.