The percentage of children who live in a single-parent household has increased significantly. While estate planning for single parents is similar to estate planning for families with two parents, you should take special consideration and outline specific provisions in your estate plan if you're a single parent due to death, divorce, or life choice. If you're a single parent, estate planning should become a high priority.
To get started, here are a few questions to ask yourself and then discuss with an estate planning lawyer.
Who will care for my minor children if I am unable to?
The answer is simple if the other parent is living and fit to raise your children. If the other parent is unable or unwilling to care for your children should you die unexpectedly, your estate plan must include provisions designating a guardian who you feel is suitable to care for and/or raise your children.
If you fail to provide one, a court-appointed guardian will be required. Anyone, possibly someone you disapprove of, could step in, and the court could appoint that person as the guardian for your children.
Choosing a guardian for your children can be very difficult but is necessary and a decision you should make while you can. The guardianship process through the court can be costly and can deplete your estate's finances, which would be better spent on your children.
If you become disabled or incapacitated, the lives of your children can be severely affected if you have not signed a financial power of attorney. If you cannot manage your finances, the court will have to legally appoint someone to serve as your financial agent. Similar to a guardian for your children, anyone can petition the court to serve this role and gain the right to control all of your assets.
You can avoid this by executing the right estate planning documents and nominating the agent you trust to oversee your finances in the manner that is best for you.
Who will pay for my expenses of raising my minor children if I pass away?
Children under the age of 18 years are not allowed to take ownership of assets in the state of Washington. Creating a testamentary trust and naming a trustee will allow you to choose who you wish to manage your finances after you have passed away.
A testamentary trust will also allow you to specify how your money should be spent and at what age your children should inherit.
Will my children be allowed to stay in their home?
Your children may be able to remain in your family home if your estate plan specifies and your assets allow for it. You should discuss this specific request with the person you choose to raise your children and evaluate your assets to determine if this will be possible.
What will happen to my pets after I die?
Most people who have pets are very attached to them. Your estate plan can include provisions to ensure your children are not separated from their pets and may include a pet trust. This may sound unimportant now, but pets can provide comfort and stability to your children if you should die unexpectedly.
Whether you've recently become a single parent or have been for some time, it's critical to create an estate plan. Call us today, and we will design a plan that's right for you and your family.