Aug 31, 2023
New Parent? Here’s an Estate Planning Approach for You
Anyone who wants a lasting say in decisions about their health care, finances, children and legacy should have an estate plan. Here are some specific estate planning considerations for new parents.
When you’re bringing new life into the world, perhaps the last thing you want to think about is death. But with a growing family comes a greater need to have your financial and estate planning done right. You want to know that your children will be provided for if anything happens to their parents.
As a new parent, here are some important points to consider:
Who will take care of your children if you pass away?
In your last will and testament, you can appoint a guardian for your children in the unlikely event that they lose their parents. This can be a difficult decision, especially if you have family and friends on both sides who would gladly take on the role. Here are some factors to take into account:
Relationships.Is it important that a family member take care of your children? If you are considering a friend, will they keep your family involved in your child’s life? If you are choosing grandparents or other older family members, will they be physically and mentally capable of providing care for up to 20 years? If naming a couple, how would a future divorce affect your guardianship plans?
Geography.How important is it that your child remains close to where they lived with you? How would a move affect their schooling, social life and future opportunities?
Culture and religion.Will the prospective guardian honor your wishes when it comes to practicing and celebrating your family’s religion and culture?
Economic means.Does the guardian have the resources to provide your children with the best care? In the next section, we’ll discuss how you can provide ongoing financial support.
Once you have identified a prospective guardian, have a conversation with them. Communicate your wishes and seek their permission to list their name(s) in a legal document as guardian. You certainly don’t want to spring guardianship on someone without advance notice!
Provide your guardian with direction and resources
It can be helpful to write a letter to the guardian detailing your wishes about how you want your children cared for. It can include financial decisions (e.g., should they receive a car when they get their license? How much should it cost?) as well as parenting style (e.g., how should they handle sensitive conversations? How much freedom should they have at what age?).
From a financial standpoint, consider how to structure your assets so that your child’s guardian can access funds for your child’s care. This can include:
- Setting up a 529 plan for their education
- Setting up a trust or Uniform Transfers to Minor (UTMA) account to cover living expenses
- Passing some assets directly to the guardian, such as funds to acquire a larger home
Once these accounts are set up, it is important to plan how you will fund them. Retitle assets as needed or ensure your documents direct assets into these accounts at your death. Life insurance is a great option for funding future expenses should anything happen to you—work with your financial advisor and life insurance agent to ensure you have an appropriate amount of coverage and your beneficiary designations are correctly updated.
Decide how and when assets should pass into your children’s hands
For any assets that you want to pass directly to your children, it is important to consider the most appropriate method and timing of doing so. For example, you likely wouldn’t want a minor to have access to thousands or millions of dollars outright.
Perhaps you are comfortable with them receiving access at the age of majority (age 18 or 21, depending on your state), in which case a UTMA account is appropriate. Or perhaps you want your child to receive money at a later age or have certain assets that remain in trust during their life or until certain milestones are achieved.
Estate planning is often a daunting task, but this is one task you won’t want to put off too long after starting a family. We believe that it is wise to work with a professional wealth advisor and estate planning attorney to create your plan, protect your assets, ensure that your wishes are honored and establish a solid foundation for future generations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eileen is responsible for conducting financial planning analyses, formulating investment recommendations, and assisting the Wealth Advisors in developing and presenting strategies to help clients in reaching their financial goals. Eileen graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and concentration in Financial Planning. Prior to joining the legacy firm RegentAtlantic in 2020, Eileen spent five years at a wealth management firm in Columbia, South Carolina, specializing in closely held family businesses. She earned the CFP® designation in 2016. Eileen has volunteered as an instructor and mentor with Rock the Street, Wall Street, a nonprofit organization aimed to equip high-school girls with the skills to succeed financially and pursue a career in mathematics. She also serves on the Genesis Committee for the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), sharing the finance career path with students and engaging young planners in a peer-to-peer networking group.
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