Estate planning for single parents is sometimes twice the work. It is not only important to think about providing care for your children, but also providing care for yourself. In a two-parent household, it is understood and preferred that the surviving parent take care of the children or an ailing spouse. However, it is not as clear cut in a single parent situation.
When thinking about estate planning, parents tend to think about their children first. If they have young children, they want to appoint a Guardian for the children in their Wills. An appointment through the Will does not automatically make the nominated person the Guardian, but it does serve as strong evidence during a Guardianship process that the nominated Guardian is the best person for the job.
The next thing to consider is who will be taking care of the children financially. When you leave behind money to a minor, you want to create a Separate Trust in your Will and name a Trustee to hold the funds until your child is old enough to manage the money on their own. If trusts are not created, then the probate court will set up a conservatorship. The Judge decides who holds the funds for the child, restricts the investment of those funds, and hands the money to the child after their 18th birthday. The surviving parent is first in line to serve as conservator, which is not always preferred, especially in the case of a divorce.
Single parents often do not think about taking care of themselves, as the focus is on the children. However, it is also important to think about appointing financial and health care agents for you during your lifetime, so that there will be someone acting for you in a time of need. Some good agent candidates are a sibling, trusted friend, or an adult child.
Marianna Chaet is an associate at the Law Offices of J. Christopher Miller, PC.