When a child enters your life, your mind swirls with all the tasks you need to accomplish. Suddenly you are responsible for feeding, nurturing, and caring for another human—not to mention assembling complicated baby equipment and toys!
Another one of your new responsibilities is planning for the unexpected. Though no one enjoys thinking about the worst-case scenario, it’s important to be ready for it. Who will care for your child if you are incapacitated, even temporarily? Which relative or friend would you want to be the legal guardian of your child if you and your co-parent were killed in an accident? These are tough but important questions.
Our Florida Attorney Can Help
It’s vital to think about these issues, but you don’t have to do it alone. An experienced estate planning lawyer can walk you through the decisions you need to make. Your lawyer will then recommend estate planning tools that fit your life.
If you already have an estate plan, you may be wondering, Why is estate planning important to new parents? The answer is that even if you have a plan in place, you will need to update it after starting a family. So let’s take a look at some common estate planning options to protect children.
Through a living will, you get to decide who will be the legal guardian of your children and who will receive your property when you die. You may also make gifts through a will.
To ensure your wishes are carried out, you can name a personal representative who will be responsible for managing your estate. It’s important to choose someone trustworthy and responsible so you’re sure your children are taken care of.
Your guardian and personal representative don’t have to be the same person, though. You want to make sure the guardian is the right person to care for your children. It can be a relative, but it doesn’t have to be. A friend your kids adore and who you trust to make the best decisions for them can be a great choice. It’s also wise to choose a backup guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.
A revocable trust is a legal document that allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime and then determine how they should be distributed after your death. As the creator of the trust, you are the “grantor” or “settlor.” You transfer most of your assets into the name of the trust and then name a trustee to manage them. You can be your own trustee during your lifetime. If you arrange for your children to receive money or property upon your death, they are the beneficiaries.
How a Revocable Trust Differs from a Living Will
If you’re wondering what the differences are between a will and trust, there are a few. With a trust, you typically name a successor trustee. This person not only manages your property after your death, but they can also take over during periods of incapacity. This allows you to decide, instead of leaving such an important choice to a judge.
A trust also allows you to make more specific arrangements for your beneficiaries. For example, many parents worry that if their child inherits a large sum of money on or before their 18th birthday, they will waste it on frivolous things. With a revocable trust, you can create provisions for when your children can access their inheritance.
Whether you die with or without a will, your estate goes through a procedure called probate. This involves the court gathering your assets, determining who is entitled to what property, paying your debts, and then distributing your property. The process takes a minimum of three months and often longer, and your estate pays for the probate proceedings.
However, a properly drafted trust avoids the probate process. A trust is also confidential, whereas a will is filed with the probate court and becomes a public record. If you want to learn how to avoid probate, check with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document in which you (the principal) give another person (your agent) authority to act on your behalf. A durable power of attorney is one that continues to be in effect even when the principal becomes incapacitated.
An agent under a valid power of attorney may be able to do things such:
- Sell a home, car, or other property;
- Make health care decisions for the principal;
- Access bank accounts and make financial transactions;
- Sign contracts; and
- Make gifts.
A durable power of attorney can be important for a parent who becomes incapacitated. It enables you to have an agent to make decisions about your medical care and finances until you are well.
You may also need a power of attorney for a child at some point, like during a long military deployment. This allows your agent to make decisions about your child’s medical care, education, and financial needs.
Your Lawyer Will Stay with You As Your Family Grows
Unlike other kinds of lawyers who help you with one lawsuit and then you never see them again, we keep in touch with our clients. As your family expands, or you buy a house, acquire other assets, or move towards retirement and grandchildren—you will need to update your estate plan. These updates can be quick and easy, but they are important changes to make.
Contact our Lawyers to Get Started Today
Even before your baby arrives, it’s smart to reach out to an estate planning lawyer to begin the process. Your lawyer can help you figure out what categories of people you will need to name (e.g., guardian, trustee, agent, etc.) so you can start thinking about the right people for those responsibilities. This also is a good time to organize your assets and determine ownership. For instance, you may want to look at whose name is on the title to the car, house, boat, etc. And if you have life insurance policies, 401ks, or IRAs, you may need to name or change your beneficiaries as life changes.
If you’re ready to start the estate planning process, contact Beller & Bustamante, P.L., today. Having an estate plan in place will give you the peace of mind of knowing your family will be cared for as you would want. With over 40 years of combined experience, our lawyers know how to create the right estate plan for you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.