One-third of all births in the United States occur to single women and less than half of kids in the U.S. are being raised by both biological parents who have only been legally married to each other. Therefore, it's obvious that there should be millions of existing wills, trusts, and other legally recognized, pre-determined lifestyle choices in place to protect the well-being of minor children if their parents should prematurely pass away. However, the reality is that many children lack that protection, which means that if a single parent were to die before their youngest child turns 18, that child could have a very different life after that calamitous event. As a result, it's a good idea to discuss with your attorney the following facts about estate planning for your children as a single parent.
Understanding What Occurs When You Don't Provide A Final Will Or Trust
It is important to note that if you do not leave a will that clearly explains who will receive your items after death, your kids will receive it all. Even if you do not think you have much to leave, the funds from a small life insurance policy, your final paychecks and the proceeds from selling your personal belongings can quickly accrue. Any funds left after your final expenses will go into an account to meet your children's needs between the time of your death and their 18th birthday. They will then be given the remains of those funds when they turn 18, unless your will or trust specifies otherwise.
Since the persons caring for your kids or an approved financial entity are responsible for the financial decisions, the courts will usually select someone for you if you don't. Unfortunately, the process of setting up an account and establishing guardianship for kids in absence of a will or trust can be both expensive and time-consuming. The expenses come out of your estate, so you will literally be taking money from your kids if you don't state in writing the names of your children's guardians and what should be done with your money after your death.
Preventing Estate Issues
Once you realize how badly things can go if you don't provide a will or trust, you might be surprised to realize how easy it is to prevent those issues. For instance, your will can establish the person or persons who will raise your children, although you should obviously discuss those wishes with them before putting into the binding paperwork. A will is often the cheapest and fastest example of estate planning.
A trust can allow you to determine how and when funds from your estate will be dispersed, as well as clarifying which persons should have access to the money until your kids are adults. It also permits you to designate the age at which your children will be able to personally access your estate, as many parents prefer to allow their kids to be older than 18 before doing so. A power-of-attorney can also be helpful, as its use by a trusted friend or family member after your death can permit your home and children to continue to be taken care of in the tumultuous days immediately after your death.
In conclusion, many children are being raised by responsible single parents in the United States today. If you are one of those persons, it's crucial to assure that your children would continue to be raised as you prefer if you were to pass away too soon. Therefore, you need to talk with an estate planning or trusts lawyer, like Thomason & Hessmer, about the information shared above so that you can protect the interests of your children.