Estate Planning for Parents of Young Children: A Horror Story
(Ok, 80% Kidding.)
Congratulations! You have a baby on the way. You’ve shared the happy news with your family and friends. You’ve done the latest Pinterest-inspired gender reveal. You’ve decorated the nursery and posted the pictures on social media. You’ve agonized over your baby registry. Perhaps you have even packed the diaper bag and strapped that car seat into your sedan (and started pricing SUVs and minivans because…goodbye sedan).
Or maybe you have a family of littles already. And you are knee-deep in crayons, potty seats, diapers of various sizes, Legos, tee-ball, ballet, and gymnastics. You’ve attended parent-teacher conferences. You have added field trips, holiday programs, and dentist appointments to your Outlook calendar. You basically live at the pediatrician’s office at the start of every school year. Your Administrative Assistant knows your kids’ napping schedule and arranges telephone conferences accordingly.
Well young parent, let me encourage you to take this opportunity to now address something few of us want to think about: your estate plan.
I get it. This goes on the back-burner for many of us. But here are a few things you may not realize and will hopefully motivate you to put this at the top of your To-Do List:
- In Maryland, if you pass away without a Will and you are survived by minor children and a spouse, your estate will be distributed ½ to your spouse and ½ to your kids.
- Without a Will, there is no designation of someone to serve as the Guardian of minor children, if your spouse does not survive you.
- Without a Power of Attorney, if you were living but unable to sign your own name, your spouse has no authority to access your retirement account, handle real property that is titled in your name (even if your spouse is a joint owner of the property), or sign your name to a contract.
- Without an Advance Medical Directive, the presumption is that you must have wanted to be kept alive for as long as possible, with the use of all available medical interventions.
So… let me point out a few more things:
- In your Will, you get a chance to designate a Guardian of your children, and direct that everything you own should be distributed to your spouse.
- You can, in your Will, set aside a portion or all of what you own in a trust for the benefit of your kids, and you can indicate how the money in the trust should be used (like…not on a Porsche, for example).
- You can also designate who would be in charge of the money in the trust (we call this person the Trustee) – and it could be someone different than who you designate to be the Guardian.
- A trust for the benefit of your kids can protect their inheritance from potential creditors (if they had serious medical expenses, for example), divorce, and the unwise decisions young people sometimes make with money.
- A Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive can help keep your financial, legal, and medical issues private if something happened to cause you to be unable to manage these matters for yourself while you are still living – these documents put authority into the hands of your named Agent and Health Care Agent, without additional hoops to jump through.
All that to say: make your estate plan a priority! And, also: putting your estate plan in place may not be as complicated as you think. And, finally: even if it is just as complicated as you think, it’s pretty important, and needs to be done. Good luck parents!
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