It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of households with children under the age of 18 are headed by single parents. First and foremost, single parents are concerned about providing for their children’s futures. An important aspect of that planning is to consider an estate plan so that their children are protected and provided for if they become incapacitated or pass away.
It takes a skilled estate planning attorney to provide the guidance and draft the documents to help ensure that your children will have the funds they need as they grow, no matter what happens. At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., we routinely assist single parents in Southeastern Massachusetts in protecting their families. Our attorneys are well aware that single-parent families require special treatment to meet their individual needs.
Documents Single Parents Need to Protect Their Children and Their Assets
Below is a list of documents generally considered essential for single parents. The best way to decide which you should or must have is to consult with an estate planning lawyer who has extensive experience dealing with single-parent families.
Why Single Parents Need a Last Will and Testament (Will)
Every parent of a minor child should have a will; this is especially true for single parents. A will allows you not only to name your beneficiaries but to designate a guardian for your children if you should die while they are still young. If you pass away without a will in place, your children could wind up with distant relatives they don’t even know instead of with your closest friend since the courts will make the decision based on legal protocol according to bloodline.
How One or More Trusts Can Help Protect Single Parent Assets
Establishing a living (revocable) trust will accomplish three important things:
1. It will avoid the costs and delays of probate, allowing your beneficiaries to access
your assets immediately if you pass away so they have the resources to care
for your children.
2. It will name a trustee to safeguard your assets to be used for your children’s
health, education, and other needs
3. It will protect your privacy.
In certain cases, you may want to have an additional trust drafted, such as a special needs trust for a child with disabilities or a spendthrift trust to provide funds for an older child who abuses substances or is otherwise unable to handle money rationally.
Documents to Deal With Your Incapacity or Death
No one likes to think of the possibility of becoming incapacitated or dying, but sudden accidental injuries and unexpected illnesses do happen. If you are laid low by such an occurrence, it is critical that you have the following documents in place:
- Durable power of attorney to name a trusted person to handle
your financial and legal affairs if you are unable to
- Health Care Proxy to name a health care agent
to make medical decisions for you if you can’t communicate your wishes
- Advance Directive to state what steps you want taken to keep you alive
if you are at the end of your life (e.g. feeding tube, intubation)
- HIPAA authorization for release to allow those you designate
to have access to your personal medical information
As a single parent, it is also wise to consider purchasing additional life insurance to make sure that there will be sufficient resources for your children. This is where a capable estate planning attorney can be helpful in creating a strategy to minimize taxation for your children’s benefit.
For Single Parents Who Own Businesses, Business Succession Planning Is Vital
Your business is an important part of your legacy so you should consider how you would like it dealt with in your absence. You may want to work with your estate planning attorney to pass your business on so it continues to operate profitably after your death to keep providing funds for your children and possibly transfers ownership to them when they reach adulthood. On the other hand, you may want the business sold after your death so there is more capital to be invested in your children’s futures.
Contact One of Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys Today
We know that you want to do the very best for your children. Contact us now so we can help you get started taking steps to protect them and secure their futures.