It may seem odd to ask young parents to think about estate planning, but starting a family is actually the perfect reason to address some really important questions. After all, becoming a parent isn’t just about choosing names and picking out nursery colors. It’s about being wholly responsible for someone else—a child—for life.
While it’s difficult to even contemplate the unthinkable, it’s imperative that new parents plan for every possibility to ensure that their children are protected, cared for, and financially secure.
Since it may be a while since you traveled this road, here is an overview of the estate planning details young parents should address.
Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children
One of the most important decisions young parents need to make is who will care for their children in the event that they are no longer able to do so, whether because of a premature death or because they have become incapacitated by either illness or injury.
This can be a delicate conversation.
As a grandparent, it’s best if you can maintain a certain level of objectivity and also be supportive of your child’s decision about a guardian.
To help guide your child through this process, here are a 7 suggestions you might make as they navigate this choice:
- First, and this might be hard for you to hear, it’s not usually advisable for young parents to choose grandparents as guardians. As much as you love your grandchild, it’s typically better if the guardian to be someone closer to the parents’ age.
- The decision needs to be made by both parents after a good deal of discussion and thought
- While choosing one guardian may seem difficult enough, the best practice is actually to choose two so that there is a backup option in case the first choice is either unable or unwilling to step in at the time of need.
- Your child should not, however, designate another couple as guardians. Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of divorce, which could potentially subject your grandchild to an unwanted custody battle.
- The person selected as guardian should have the physical, emotional, and financial means to care for and raise a child. They also need to be willing to take on the immense responsibility of not just being there for the child, but also for making difficult medical and other decisions as needed.
- In addition to having the capacity to care for a child, the guardian should also be someone who shares your child’s beliefs and who has similar parenting philosophies.
- The location of the guardian should also be considered. Does the guardian live close by? Would he or she be willing to relocate for the best interests of your grandchild?
Obviously, this is a very hard decision that will likely bring up a lot of difficult questions that new parents may not feel completely prepared to answer. However, the alternative is having the court appoint a guardian. Better to deal with the issue as a family than leave such an important question to chance.
Preparing a Will and Other Important Documents
There are a number of key legal documents that new parents should have in place in addition to a last will and testament in which they bequeath property and name a guardian for their children. These include:
Health Care Directives: This document names the person who will make medical decisions on a person’s behalf it that person is incapacitated and unable to do so.
Living Will: Also called an “advance directive,” this document defines a person’s wishes related to end-of-life care and covers things like pain medication and whether or not resuscitation should be used.
Power of Attorney: Similar to the health care directive, if a person becomes disabled mentally or physically, this document gives the designated person authority to access and manage assets, with the least expense and without court intervention.
In addition, new parents should name an executor or trustee for their estate. This way, if either parents die or the surviving spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, there will be someone who knows the parents’ wishes to take responsibility for financial and legal matters on behalf of minor children.
As a grandparent, you naturally want to do whatever you can to ensure your grandkids’ safety, comfort, and financial stability. Helping your own child navigate these often overlooked but very important steps in the journey to being a responsible parent may be one of the best gifts you can give your grandchild.
By helping your child get a good start with smart estate planning, you will be not only helping to protect your grandchild’s future, you will also be helping to give your grandkid’s parents much-needed peace of mind.