As a single parent, creating a will is one of the most protective and important things you can do for your child. While many parents don’t dare think of their end of life, avoiding the subject can leave your children in jeopardy of losing wealth, guardianship and a hopeful future.
In this guide for estate planning for single parents, we’ll show you the key areas you need to cover to protect your child or children:
Why You Need a Single Parent Will and Estate Plan:
Who Will Raise Your Children If You Die Young?
If your minor child’s other parent is not fit to raise your child, is deceased or out of contact, then what will happen if you pass away? Without a will, this decision will be out of your hands – leaving your child at risk of living with someone you’d not want.
Thankfully, you can select and list a guardian in your will. This guardian will be responsible for decisions around education, medical care, extracurricular activities, place of residence and much more.
While listing your own parents as a guardian might seem obvious, you should consider substitute options depending on your parent’s age and health.
Finally, it’s advised that you always have a long and serious conversation with a potential guardian to ensure they’re prepared for the role in the worst-case scenario.
To Ensure Your Children Get Your Possessions
While your children will be entitled to your estate in the event of your death, you may want to mention who gets what specifically. This can be especially useful if you have multiple children.
For example, in your will, you could state that you want your collection of guitars to go to your musician son, but your jewelry to go to your daughter.
While many parents assume that their children will work this out amongst themselves, having a single parent Will in place can prevent future tensions, arguments and greed from arising, so your family stays together after your death.
To Handle Insurance Proceeds
Single parents are unlikely to want their children to be the outright beneficiaries of insurance proceeds while they are young. Minor children (under age 18) cannot receive funds from a life insurance policy.
Instead, single parents can create a trust in their single parent will, called a ‘testamentary trust’, for each child and designate those trusts as the beneficiary of the life insurance. The trust for each child will hold the proceeds of the life insurance policy, allowing your terms to dictate how the funds are used for your child’s best interests. You can also list milestones in your child’s life to gain access to full ownership of the funds in the trust.
To Determine What Happens If You Remarry
When families blend, estate planning takes on a new challenge and should be planned appropriately.
If you pass away, would you like to leave your entire estate to your new spouse? Or would part of the estate be specifically for your children? What happens if you and your spouse have new children?
As you can see, many questions can arise.
The primary goal here is to protect your children. By using a will or a trust, coupled with making a prenuptial agreement with your new spouse, you can ensure that your child gets enough wealth shared with them to protect their future.
To Ensure Special Needs Children Are Still Supported
If you have a child with special needs, then a single parent will is crucial alongside a ‘Special Needs Trust’.
Special Needs Trusts are irrevocable trusts that ensure your child’s inheritance is held separately, so your child still qualifies for benefits.
The person appointed to manage the trust (called a Trustee), will then be able to use the trust to support your child throughout their life.
An estate planning attorney can help you create the special needs trust to maximize the trust’s funds and ensure your child doesn’t lose government benefits and assistance.
To Fund Your Child’s Education
For many single parents, ensuring that even if they pass away their child can still go to college is a priority in estate planning.
Trusts created through single parent wills, called ‘testamentary trusts’, allow you to ensure funds are used for educational purposes.
Another option is a 529 Plan that can be created for a child. The 529 Plan can be set up now, and grow income-tax free until funds are taken out for the child’s education.
Without these plans, your child is at risk of losing their ability to go to college and start adulthood on the right foot.
To Appoint a Durable Power of Attorney
As part of their estate planning single parents should also create a ‘Durable Power of Attorney’.
A Durable Power of Attorney designates someone to handle your finances. This can be crucial if you’re incapacitated or severely ill.
If you do not make a power of attorney, then a guardianship may be required in order for someone to be able to handle your finances. This can be a big risk as your finances may be in the hands of someone you wouldn’t personally select.
To Appoint a Health Care Power of Attorney
‘Health Care Power of Attorneys’ are another important estate planning document. The individual you name is appointed to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Without appointing someone, you risk decisions being made by someone you wouldn’t trust or with views against your personal preferences.
Making a Health Care Power of Attorney as a single parent may also prevent your child from having to make an unimaginable medical decision, such as about life support or operations.
To Make Medical Directives
Your estate plan should also include advance directives. As a single parent, you’ll have made key medical decisions that can be followed in medical emergencies since you don’t have a spouse for doctors to turn to.
You can list decisions such as whether you want feeding tubes, ventilators, medication and other life-sustaining care, ensuring your children and medical teams have clear instructions on how to make a difficult decision on your behalf.
To Protect Your Family’s Pet
What will happen to your pet if you die before your pet? In your will, you can state that you have a Pet Trust. By making a pet trust, you can ensure funds are designated towards the care and wellbeing of your pet.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you’re a single parent looking to create a will or need any legal advice regarding your estate plans, then our Florida estate planning attorney can help.
Regardless of how simple or complicated your circumstances are, we can help you protect your child’s future with the use of strategic and wise estate planning.
With decades of experience, our law firm regularly helps Florida residents start estate planning with elderly parents.
Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation.