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The Unique Considerations of Protecting Your Family as a Single Parent

Single parents know all too well that their every decision carries double the weight. When you’re flying without a co-pilot, there is no margin for error…which is why instituting mechanisms to protect your family is so important. Every adult should have an Estate Plan no matter their circumstances, but an Estate Plan is crucial for parents without a partner or spouse. Organizing your affairs when you’re a single parent presents unique considerations. This article serves as a primer on the subject, to prepare you for a conversation with a qualified estate planning attorney.

Protecting Your Family When It’s Just You and the Kids

1. Guardianship Designations

Everyone knows not to put all their eggs in one basket. You’d never risk your savings on a single stock, just like you’d never pin all your hopes on a single job interview.

When parenting alone, you are your children’s basket, and their future rides on your well-being. This arrangement carries disproportionate risk, which is why guardianship designations are indispensable.

You can designate a guardian for your dependent children and loved ones in your Last Will so that should anything ever happen to you and you pass away, your designated guardian will step in on your behalf.  On the other hand, if you do not pass away but instead become incapacitated, you can execute a Designation of Guardian that will name who you want to take care of your dependent children and loved ones while you remain incapacitated.

Guardianship designations are crucial, even for those parenting alone due to divorce. While it is true that, should you die, usually your ex-spouse would assume full parenting responsibility for your children, this is not always true. Furthermore, just as your well-being is not a given, neither is that of the other parent. Establishing guardianship designations in the context of divorce is complex, making experienced counsel from an estate planning attorney that much more important.

Who you choose to be a guardian to your children is another tricky question for you to answer.  An estate planning attorney can help guide you through this complex decision.

2. Wills and Trusts

Just as important as determining who will fill in on your behalf should anything ever happen to you is establishing how your children’s financial needs will be met. Wills and Trusts play a crucial role.

Beyond providing space for you to designate guardians to dependent minors, your Will is a space to dictate how your assets will be distributed. Trusts, likewise, serve this purpose, but provide more control over how your assets are used. When you institute a Trust you not only ensure your money will go to your children, but you establish the timing and form in which it will be distributed.

Depending on your wants and needs, single parents may choose to establish any of several types of Trusts. Again, an attorney will make recommendations based on your unique circumstances.

3. Life Insurance

A Trust is only useful if funded, and few single parents have enough assets to cover their children’s lifelong expenses without some sort of assistance. Life insurance is an affordable way to pay for education, recreation, and care, and yet choosing the right plan is not easy. A minor cannot receive funds from a life insurance policy, so a Trust (or similar vehicle) is needed. Entering into the complexity of this matter is beyond the scope of this article, and is a subject better addressed in conversation with an estate planning attorney.

Protecting your family is, without a doubt, your most important responsibility as a parent, so establishing a robust Estate Plan is key. This is doubly true for single parents. To learn more about this subject or to address any questions related to estate planning, do not hesitate to reach out to the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith either by calling (936) 301-0111 or using the contact form on our website.

Monique Hineline

Smith & Smith are very professional, informative, and relatable with examples and stories to ease the estate planning process. I had the best time at their lunch and learn. Even if you already have your estate planning in place I highly recommend attending a lunch and learn. Thanks Smith & Smith!