As a single mother, your top priority is providing for your kids and yourself. All the pressure is on you to ensure the physical and financial well-being of your child.
It is so important to have your daily finances in order, but this is just half of financial planning. What about planning for the future? Are your assets protected? What would happen to your hard-earned money if you suddenly became ill or passed away? Who would financially provide for your children if you were gone? Who will be responsible for raising your children if they are under 18 or have a disability? These are all difficult questions to think about, but they are so important to address, especially if you have minor children.
In this single mother’s guide to financial planning, we want to focus on financial planning for the future. There are many estate planning tools that can protect your assets and make them available for your children if you become incapacitated or die.
Create an Estate Plan
An estate plan is so important for single mothers. It’s the best way to shelter your money and property for your children’s benefit. Regardless of your income status or the amount of assets you have, an estate plan is necessary. Your plan can include a variety of different documents based on your needs and goals. As a single mom, from a financial planning perspective, you should consider at least having a will, a trust, and a general power of attorney.
Last Will and Testament
For single parents, one of the most important documents to execute is a last will and testament. Without a will, you have no control over where your assets go at death or who cares for your children. Rather, the state decides for you.
Under Florida intestate succession law, if you die without a will and have no spouse, your children automatically inherit everything. While that might sound like exactly what you want, minors cannot inherit property in their own name until they turn 18. In the interim, an adult must manage the money and assets for them. This could be anyone (even a complete stranger) that the court appoints. With a will, you choose where your assets go and who will maintain them for your children.
A will is also the place where you appoint a guardian to care for your children if you die before they are 18.
Trusts are not fancy documents just for wealthy people. They’re for anyone, especially single moms, who want to protect their assets and control how their money is used for their children’s benefit. A trust is a legal relationship whereby a person or entity (the trustee) holds and maintains assets provided by the grantor (the person who created the trust) for the benefit of someone (the beneficiary). Trusts are a great estate planning tool because they avoid the probate process, which saves money and gives your children access to the funds quicker.
There are many different types of trusts, but the structure is the same. From life insurance trusts to pet trusts (yes, it’s a real thing), each has its own benefits and purpose. The right one for you depends on your individual situation.
Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
Trusts come in two different forms: revocable and irrevocable. With a revocable trust, you can retain control and can change its terms at any time, which is useful since life is always changing. If you become ill or incapacitated, your successor trustee can take over for you. However, with a revocable trust, you retain legal ownership of the assets, which gives creditors access to them.
With an irrevocable trust, the assets are no longer yours but instead belong to the trust. This safeguards whatever money or property you put into the trust from any debtors. With this type of trust, however, it’s almost impossible to change or terminate it.
Living and Testamentary Trusts
A living trust is effective during your life and gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of how you want the assets to be managed. Once you die, the living trust becomes irrevocable. By placing all your assets into a living trust, you can avoid the probate process and spell out your wishes within the terms of the trust.
A testamentary trust, on the other hand, is a trust embedded into the terms of your will. This means it only goes into effect once you die. How this works is all of the money and property that your children would have inherited under your will rolls over into a trust. This allows you to direct how the money is used and when your children can receive their inheritance.
Both types of trust can provide great tax benefits if structured and funded properly.
Special Needs Trust
If you have a child with special needs, you need to be strategic about how you leave money for him or her. If your child receives a large inheritance, it may exempt them from governmental assistance and benefits. Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are just some examples of governmental programs that your child could be excluded from.
To avoid this, you can create a special needs trust or supplemental needs trust (SNT). This estate planning tool shelters the inheritance amount and ensures that those funds will not be counted as resources when your child applies for government assistance. With an SNT, the trustee can use that money to provide things for your child that the governmental programs do not.
At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., our estate planning lawyers can look over your finances, discuss your goals, and help you decide what trust will meet your needs best.
Power of Attorney
Single moms typically hold all the responsibility for their children. So what happens if you’re in a car accident or suffer from an illness and lose the capacity to function? Who will control your finances? With a power of attorney document, you can appoint an agent to make financial decisions for you. In turn, these decisions will impact your children.
Are You Ready to Plan for the Future?
We hope this single mother’s guide to financial planning has you thinking about the future. If you want to protect your assets and ensure they are available for your children’s use and benefit, contact Beller & Bustamante, P.L. We have decades of experience crafting estate plans that meet our client’s individual needs and wishes. With the help of our estate planning lawyers, you will have peace of mind knowing a plan is in place for your children if tragedy happens.
Do not put this off. Anything can happen in the blink of an eye, so be prepared.
Contact us online or by calling 904-288-4414 to speak with one of our estate planning lawyers.