What New Parents Need to Know About Estate Planning

When you are adjusting to life as a new parent, estate planning is unlikely to be at the top of your to-do list. You are probably preoccupied with matters such as car seats, pediatricians, and child care options, all while trying to sneak in a bit of sleep. But becoming a new parent makes preparing your estate plan especially important.

As unpleasant as it might be to think about, you want to make sure that your children will be taken care of if something were to happen to you. An estate plan can facilitate this in two ways.

First, an estate plan can ensure that the people raising your children are those whom you would have wanted. In a will, you can name a guardian—the person who would be caring for your children. You might be reluctant to choose a guardian because you do not want to face your own mortality or because you are having difficulty making such a critical choice. However, without making that choice—and documenting it in a legally valid will—you have left it up to a judge to make that decision for you. Further, if you do not name a guardian, your family might find themselves in a heart-wrenching and expensive court battle.

Second, an estate plan can ensure that your children are financially provided for. If your children are young, setting up a trust as part of your estate plan will grant your children access to funds, if and when they need them. But your children will be prevented from mismanaging the money while it is under the trust. The property in the trust is managed by a successor trustee—someone of your choosing—to ensure that the assets in the trust are used for the benefit of your children, just as you would have done. Absent a trust in place for the benefit of your children, your assets could be tied up in the probate process for six months or longer, and use of those assets may be dictated by a court-appointed conservator rather than by a trusted friend or family member.

Parents want what is best for their children. Creating an estate plan is one of the best steps that new parents can take to ensure that their children are provided for, both emotionally and financially.