The joy of having brought a new life into the world comes with the reality we are no longer kids ourselves and need to start making adult decisions. Ignoring these easy to accomplish tasks could result in major problems in a crisis. Here are the top items you can do today to better your child’s life:
1. Appoint a Guardian. You just met your bundle of joy and are filled with a lot of emotion. So it’s not unusual for parents to forget about planning if something should happen to you. Without a Will that expressly states your wishes for Guardian of your children, your family and friends won’t know who you intended to raise them. To make matters worse, if there is a disagreement over Guardianship, the issue will become a matter of litigation and decided by a Court. It’s a problem that can be easily resolved by a simple Will that appoints a Guardian and can be revised at a later date should anything change.
2. Check Beneficiaries. Items with a beneficiary like an IRA, 401(k), or Life Insurance Policy have their own beneficiary form. Regardless of your Will, the payout will be directed to the person on the beneficiary form. Forgetting to update this information can result in a payout to a family member other than your spouse, or an ex, when you wanted it to go to your child. Luckily, these forms can typically be updated online or at your company HR office without much fuss. Even if you only have a small portfolio, a retirement account doesn’t have to be cashed out for an estate. Your child can inherit the account and assume the investments, allowing the money to compound for their lifetime and provide them a large nest egg.
3. Life Insurance. You know all about life insurance, but you’ve always put it off. I’ll share the reason I bought a life insurance policy. If something were to suddenly happen to me, I’m sure my wife and family would grieve and struggle getting back to work. I wanted to have a policy to ease the pain for my wife and give her money to pay bills and take care of our son. Getting a policy is about taking care of your family even after you’re gone. Stop putting it off.
4. 529 Account. This is a tax deferred account that sets aside money to pay for your child’s college education. Setting up an account is incredibly easy and can be designed to take money directly from your account every month. The investments typically provide safe, stable growth in mutual funds. You can pick any State, any fund, and start funding the account on your phone. By doing it now, you’re putting time on your side for the money to compound.
5. Living Will and Power of Attorney. A good estate planning attorney will include these when you do a Will, but you should know to request them. A Living Will contains your wishes if you become incapacitated or need to be kept alive using medical devices. No spouse or child should be put in that position and it can be easily prevented with this short document. The other is a Power of Attorney, typically for Property and Healthcare, to appoint a person to make decisions regarding your medical care and gain access to your accounts to maintain your affairs. Failing to produce these documents in a time of need can be extremely stressful and overwhelming. It’s a statutory form that can be done quickly while executing a Will.
6. Create A Binder Or Filing System. It’s important to remember the hypocrisy of many estate plans. If one person organizes all the paperwork and knows where they are located, and something happens to that person, have you really gained anything? Spending time and money on protecting your family only helps if your family can find it in a time of need. Get a binder with all of your legal documents and bank documents or have a central filing location.
7. Save Your Money. Children are amazing, but boy are they expensive. Start pinching pennies everyone you can and adjust your budget. The good news is everything I’ve outlined is far cheaper than you think. A 529 account will take $50 out of your bank account every month. If you are young, healthy, a nonsmoker, and submit to a exam, a health insurance policy is cheaper than you think. Scared off by asking an attorney to do a Will? The reality is my office can draft a simple Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney for Property, and Power of Attorney for Healthcare that will fit in your budget and protect your family.
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