The years during which you begin a family, and your family grows, are both marvelous and hectic. For the first time, you are completely responsible for the well-being of someone who is utterly dependent on you. There’s so much to do, and so much to teach your little ones, and it’s all-absorbing; it’s hard to remember a time before they were here.
It’s even more difficult to imagine a time when you might not be there for them. Unfortunately, we can’t control the uncertain future; the best we can do is plan for it. When you have a baby or small children, that’s exactly what you need to do. Although it can be difficult to contemplate, and hard to find the time to do, making or updating your estate plan is one of the best things you can do for your family.
Who will care for the children?
If something were to happen to you or your child’s other parent, the surviving parent would care for your child. But what if something happens to both of you? A Colorado court will appoint a guardian, usually a close relative. The problem is that the guardian might not be one you would have chosen. If two prospective guardians both feel they should care for your child (two sets of grandparents, perhaps) there could be a court battle and permanently damaged family relations. You can’t assume everyone will know, or do, what you want for your child. The only way to make sure your wishes will be honored as swiftly and easily as possible is to name a guardian for your child in a last will and testament A will also provides for your assets to be distributed according to your wishes, not Colorado law.
If your child is a minor, you must also name someone to manage his or her inheritance. You may or may not want this to be the same person who is responsible for the child’s day-to-day care and upbringing. Absent prior planning on your part, your child will be entitled to receive the inheritance in full at age eighteen. If you prefer to exercise control over how and when your child is able to access inherited assets, you should consider creating a trust and appointing a trustee. This addresses two possible problems: a court appointing a manager other than one you would have chosen for the inheritance, and your child suddenly coming into wealth without the maturity to handle it.
Your estate plan will also necessarily involve a review of your insurance needs and coverage. Remember that if you or your child’s other parent dies, you may need to replace one income or may need to pay for services that a stay-at-home parent had performed, like housekeeping and child care. In addition, life insurance benefits may be needed to fund a child’s future education.
Who would care for you?
As difficult as it is to contemplate your own death, other scenarios could be just as difficult for your family to deal with. What if, for instance, you and your spouse were in a car accident in which your spouse was killed and you were severely injured or incapacitated?
You and your child’s other parent need medical powers of attorney. These documents authorize another person to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. You will likely want your spouse to have this authority, but you should both name an alternate in contemplation of an event like the scenario above. A living will can specify what kinds of life-extending care you want under what circumstances, sparing your family the agony of possibly making a decision that goes against your wishes. You should also consider signing HIPAA authorizations so that your doctors can discuss your medical condition with anyone, such as a sibling or parent, you might want to have that information.
If you recognize the need, but have not yet found the time to make an estate plan for your family, contact the experienced estate planning and probate attorneys at Davis Schilken. Call us at 303-670-9855 to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations in The Denver Tech Center and Golden, Colorado. We look forward to working with you to protect your family.