Estate planning for a single parent

Natalia Vander Laan

Natalia Vander Laan

Estate planning is a vital process that ensures that one’s assets are distributed according to their wishes after their death. For a single parent, this is even more crucial, as they are solely responsible for providing for and protecting their children. A proper estate plan safeguards the children’s financial future and helps to ensure their well-being.

Probably the most critical aspect of estate planning for a single parent is the designation a guardian for their minor children. This ensures that if something were to happen to the parent, a trusted person of their choice will be appointed to raise their children. It is crucial to carefully evaluate potential guardians and to select a guardian who shares similar values, has a similar parenting style, understands children’s needs, and is willing to assume the responsibility. A parent should have an open discussion with the potential guardian. Also, an alternate guardian should be selected as well.

Secondly, establishing a trust or creating a will is the foundation of any estate plan and can be an effective strategy for a single parent to protect and manage their assets for the benefit of their children. By establishing a Trust that will exist after their death under the control of a reliable trustee, a parent can ensure that their assets are held and distributed according to their wishes, even after their passing. A Trust that will exist until children reach a certain age or milestone can provide ongoing financial support for the children’s upbringing, education, healthcare, and overall well-being, while also offering protection from potential mismanagement or irresponsible spending.

Life insurance is a vital component of an estate plan for a single parent as it provides financial protection for their children in the event of the parent’s premature death. The benefit payment from a life insurance policy can be used to cover living expenses, educational costs, and all other financial necessities. It provides a financial safety net to ensure their children are cared for and their needs are met. By designating the parent’s Trust as the beneficiary, the life insurance proceeds can be used over time according to the terms of the Trust for the benefit of the underage children.

A single parent should also evaluate and update their beneficiary designations on their retirement plans, annuities, or other financial accounts to ensure that the designated beneficiaries align with their wishes and existing family circumstances. Again, by designating the parent’s Trust as the beneficiary, the funds can be used over time according to the terms of the trust for the benefit of the minor children.

In addition to planning for the care of their children, a single parent should establish powers of attorney for health and financial decisions to ensure that the decisions in place are made in accordance with their wishes during their incapacity.

Life circumstances change and, consequently, a single parent, like everyone else, should review their estate plan periodically and update it as necessary to account for the major life events and changes in financial circumstances.

Taking proactive measures and creating a comprehensive estate plan allows a single parent to protect their children’s future and gain peace of mind. It is important that the estate plan aligns with one’s current goals and reflects their children’s evolving needs.


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