If you have recently had or adopted a child and you don’t yet have an estate plan in place, it’s time to start crafting one. Generally speaking, all adults should have an estate plan in place, even if they don’t own much property or have children. Once you turn 18, you need to have paperwork in place that says who you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated and what will happen to your assets if you die – unless you want the state to assume that power.
However, it is especially important for young parents to have an estate plan in place. If you don’t explicitly name who you’d like to assume a guardianship role for your child in the event of your unexpected death, the state will name who will be granted custody. Do you want to decide who will get to raise your child or do you want the state to decide?
Don’t “DIY” your estate plan
When crafting your estate plan – complete with guardianship designation details – don’t take a “do it yourself” approach. It can be tempting to simply select an estate plan template offered for free or a minimal charge online and to scrawl out the bare minimum of what you’ll need to be able to say that you have an estate plan in place.
However, online templates are notoriously unreliable. They often don’t properly account for state-specific legal criteria and recent changes to state law. As a parent, you want your guardianship designations to be recognized by the court.
The stakes of your estate plan are going to be as high as they can possibly be for your child if you die unexpectedly. Take a little time to connect with a legal professional when crafting an estate plan to ensure that it is both complete and fully enforceable.