When is the right time to put your estate plan in place?

As a new parent, the last thing on your mind (and scariest) is the thought of something happening to you or your spouse, and your child being left without parents. We all want to protect our children from as much as we can, and hope to be with them everyday throughout their life. But unfortunate situations can happen to anyone at any time. Putting a plan in place and appointing a guardian for your children will put your mind at ease that your little ones will be taken care of if you were gone.

If you and your partner both died without a will, the state courts and social services department would appoint someone to raise your children. That person might have very different ideas about parenting than you do. Even if you think you have almost no property to leave your children, it’s worth making a will to select their guardian.

It is best to seek the advice of an Estate Planning attorney to guide you through the different aspects of putting your plan in place. To get started, consider the following:

  • Make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance, and personal property.
  • Decide exactly whom you want to inherit what, and when. You can choose specific items to go to certain people.
  • Choose a guardian for your children.
  • Choose an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to do the job.
  • Decide whether you want someone else to handle the assets you leave your children. If so, choose that person.
  • Choose an executor to carry out your wishes and handle the necessary paperwork after you die.
  • Decide whether you want to include a letter stating how you’d like your children to be raised and educated, your funeral to be arranged, and so on.

For parents, making a will is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your children are cared for by the individuals of your choice if anything were to happen to you. And you can designate a property guardian or trustee to manage your money for your children until they reach adulthood. You can appoint one person to act as both personal and property guardian, or choose two people to carry out the separate roles.