With the birth or adoption of a child, parents must also consider the worst and plan for their children’s care if either parent dies. A will helps ensure that your wishes and beliefs concerning your family and property are followed.
An updated will is an important part of estate planning for everyone, but especially new parents. Without a will, courts will select a guardian and decide other important matters regardless of what the parents want.
A will also covers how your house, savings, vehicle, jewelry, and other personal property is distributed. Without a will, a court will decide how property is allocated which may be different than what you intended. A court will also decide who will hold and disperse funds until a child reaches 18.
By drafting a will, you choose the executor who will disburse your assets and administer your estate after your death. Their duties include assuring that all your directions are followed, taxes and debts are paid, property is distributed in accordance with your wishes, and that appropriate reports are filed. A competent and trustworthy person who will act in accordance with your wishes should serve as executor.
Parents may also decide to establish a trust, especially when their children are young. A trust controls how and when assets are given to children, so they do not have unrestrained access and the funds are used responsibly. When establishing a trust, you should designate a trustworthy and competent person to serve as trustee.
When and how
New parents should have a will drafted or updated shortly after their child is born or adopted. Additional updates are needed if there are more children, a divorce or other significant life change.
Before drafting, make these preparations:
- Choose an executor.
- Take an inventory of all your assets and liabilities.
- Determine who will inherit your assets.
- Speak to and consider potential guardians
- Speak to a financial planner if you have many assets.
A new child is also an excellent time to review beneficiary designations on life insurance, pensions and stock and retirement plans. This helps assure that these assets are passed on to the beneficiaries and secondary beneficiaries you desire.
You should consider a living will. This document contains your instructions on end-of-life care.
Choosing a guardian for your children may be the most important and difficult decision you make when preparing your will. Candid and thorough discussions with potential guardians are important.
Chose a guardian that you trust and who will raise your children according to your wishes and beliefs. Consider their values, style of parenting, ability to have a good relationship with children, religion and where they live. Their eagerness, and financial and physical ability to raise children are also important.
Same sex parents should also have a second parent adoption. This helps assure that both parents will have legal custody of their biological or adopted children if one of the parents dies.
An experienced estate attorney can provide specific options that meet your family’s needs and carries out your desires. They can assist you with preparing and executing these and other legal documents, such as a power of attorney, which meet Pennsylvania’s legal requirements and carry out your directions.