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Written by Thomas Upchurch
Estate planning is important for everyone, but the need to be prepared is all the more pressing if you are a single parent to minor children. When a married parent passes away suddenly, the child typically remains in the care of the surviving parent, who likely has the resources to provide for that care and will inherit at least a portion of the deceased parent’s estate. When a single parent passes away or becomes incapacitated, the situation may be much more complicated. This is especially true if the child’s other parent is deceased or otherwise unavailable.
These steps may help single parents protect their children and provide for their needs in the event of untimely death or incapacity.
The simplest step toward ensuring that your child is provided for in the event of your death is to create and execute a will that ensures that your assets are managed for the benefit of your child. Although your child or children may inherit through intestate succession if you do not have a will, this can be complicated when the beneficiaries are minors. Unless you make specific provisions, there is no guarantee that someone you trust will manage those assets for your children, or that assets will be divided as you would have wished.
A living trust may be used with a will or in place of a will. When you create a revocable living trust, you place some or all of your assets in the trust. During your lifetime, you will be both the trustee and beneficiary of the trust, allowing you to continue to use your assets as you choose. Upon your death, a successor trustee is substituted, and those you have chosen as successor beneficiaries—in this case, your children—are substituted and immediately entitled to the benefits of the trust.
Although many people believe that you must have extensive assets to use a living trust, there are some advantages for nearly everyone. For example, when you place your assets in a revocable living trust, you get to choose the person who will manage those assets after your death, and the people who will benefit from them. You can also avoid the delay associated with probating a will or intestate estate, ensuring that there is no gap in access to resources for your children.
Of course, one of the greatest concerns for any single parent is to ensure that his or her children are properly cared for. While a will or living trust allows a single parent to provide for the children’s financial security, it is also essential to plan for a caretaker.
In some cases, custody of minor children will automatically pass to the other natural parent upon the death of a single parent. However, you do not want to make assumptions when it comes to the care of your children. Providing for unforeseen circumstances is part of your job as a parent. And, of course, if the other parent is deceased or otherwise unavailable, the future care of your children may be entirely in your hands.
Designation of a “pre-need guardian” under Florida law is the most common means of ensuring that someone you trust is entrusted with the day-to-day care of your children should you pass away or become incapacitated. However, in some circumstances, a standby guardianship might be more appropriate. An experienced Florida estate lawyer can help you determine how best to designate a guardian for your children.
While wills, living trusts and guardianships are the most common tools used to provide for children after the death or incapacity of a single parent, every situation is different. To ensure that your children are afforded the greatest protection possible in your circumstances, talk to an experienced estate lawyer today.