The single-parent family is a fact of life today. According to 1999 figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 70 million children under age 18 in the United States, 28% (19.6 million) live with one parent. Another 6% (4.2 million) live with their grandparents.
These households are economically unique especially when it comes to protecting dependents from financial uncertainties. That is because, unless there is an absent parent providing support, economic security hinges on one person's income.
This creates an at-risk situation. The reason: The death of the parent will almost certainly lead to the end of the existing family unit.
If you are a single parent, your premature death could have consequences for your children in several ways beyond the emotional loss of a parent.
Their inheritance could be administered by a third party if they are minors. Your assets could be put in trust and managed by a court-appointed administrator whose fees will be taken from your estate.
Other family members could become entangled in court battles over custody, guardianship and financial control.
To protect your children, you should consider the following:
- Make sure your will is up to date. Otherwise, everything involving your estate and your children's financial future may be decided by a probate judge.
- Select a guardian for minor children and do so with great care. Select someone who is capable and willing to take on the tremendous responsibility of raising your children if anything should happen to you. Make sure guardians understand that this is not a ceremonial honor (such as becoming a godparent), but the acceptance of a legal responsibility. Talk to your attorney about drafting a guardianship document and making it part of your will.
- Leave written instructions regarding everything from how you want your children raised (religious preferences, college plans, etc.) to how you want assets managed and used to benefit and protect your children. These will serve as guidelines to help those who assume the responsibility of raising your children. Put these instructions in your will.
- Make sure your children's future needs are funded. That is why it is important to maintain a strong life insurance program. Life insurance can provide the funds to raise your children and help fund their education. (Note: Do not name minor children as beneficiaries. Instead, consider using a trust. See the following point.)
- Make trust arrangements and pick a trusted advisor as trustee so your assets are managed according to your wishes for your children's benefits. Talk to your attorney about the details.
Recommendation: Don't delay the need for estate planning for your peace of mind and your children's sakes.
Where to get help: Talk to an attorney about your will and trust options and about assessing your estate planning needs and planning a strategy that can help assure your children's financial security.
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|Estate Planning for the Single Parent|