Starting a family involves preparation and thinking ahead. Your to-do list may include registering for the latest and greatest baby gadgets, subscribing to parenting advice blogs, stocking up on diapers and choosing the perfect name. The list of things you need to do as a new mom or dad is endless, but there is one essential task that should not be overlooked: your estate plan and preparation for the unexpected. Of course, the last thing you want to think about is something happening to render you unable to care for your spouse and children. However, the birth of a child is a great time to start thinking about ways to protect yourself and your precious family.
What is an estate plan? Your estate is comprised of all of your assets that you leave behind when you die (think your house, car, bank and investment accounts and personal belongings and even your business interests). An estate plan ensures that if you become incapacitated or die, your debts are paid, your assets go to the right people and your family is taken care. An estate plan will also let family members and the court know who you wish to serve as a guardian of your minor children. If you die without a will, assets titled in your individual name may be distributed according to Indiana laws of intestacy. Further, Indiana does not allow minors to inherit any property or money directly. A court-appointed adult will have to manage the inheritance.
There are several options, and you should discuss them with an estate planning attorney to determine which is right for you. For example, a trust that is funded before you die can help support your children right away and avoid any delay that may be caused by a probate or guardianship court proceeding. The person you select to serve as the trustee, and not a court, will be able to manage the inheritance for your minor children until an age or specific milestone that you specify. A trust is also a vehicle to make arrangements for children with special needs.
Other key documents all Indiana adults should have in place include: a Last Will and Testament, Appointment of Health Care Representative, General Durable Power of Attorney and Living Will.
There are so many happy and wonderful times ahead for your family. A thoughtful estate plan for the future can help you feel secure to live in the moment.