If you’re young, healthy and have small children, you’re probably busy trying to make a living to provide for your family. Most, if not all, your time is spent thinking about babysitters, good schools, soccer games and PTA meetings. The last thing on your mind is providing for your kids if something happens to you. You’re young and young people don’t die, right?
If you have children, especially small children, the time for estate planning is now.
Your estate plan allows you to plan for who will care for your children, makes sure that your property is transferred to the people you want to have it, determines who will handle the business affairs of your estate and who will handle the property you leave to your children.
If you still don’t think you need an estate plan, here are a few things to think about:
Why are you delaying estate planning?
For many couples with young children, the expense of actually sitting down with an attorney may be the leading factor in delaying planning their estate. When you’re trying to pay a mortgage, an estate plan may seem like a luxury you can put off until a later time. But consider the possibility that something does happen to you and/or your spouse. What would happen to your children? If you don’t decide who will take care of your children and put that decision into an estate plan, the court will make the decision for you. And that may very well not be the best choice for your kids.
Some parents delay estate planning because of mixed feelings about death, property issues, even marriage and family relationships. If these issues are causing you to put off planning your estate, take some time to sit down and discuss them with your spouse and really get a handle on your feelings. Once you’ve dealt with how you feel about these issues, you will have a much better handle on how to plan your estate and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your children and your property will be taken care of.
A reality check
Once you’ve examined your feelings surrounding the issues involved in estate planning, it’s time for a little dose of reality. Be very realistic about your resources and how they’ll be used. If you want your estate to be used for sending your children to college, you need to also think about how they will be supported until they actually reach the age to go to college. The first thing you need to think about is supporting your children. They need food, clothes and shelter first. College is a secondary consideration.
The time to plan is now
If you’re wondering if you need to hire an attorney to plan your estate, the answer is yes. While you can do a simple will with forms you find online, if you have small children, those forms are not going to design your estate in a way that truly benefits your children and ensures that what you really want done is done.
To get the ball rolling, sit down and make a list of the property you own, how it is titled, the fair market value and how much you owe on it (if anything). List all your life insurance and retirement plans, how much they’re worth and who the beneficiaries or owners are. Now is the time to think ahead. Don’t just think about your current situation but think about what your family will need in the future.
And be prepared for your estate plan to change over the years. As your children grow and your life changes, make sure you keep careful records and that your estate plan changes as well. A will that was written ten years before your death is highly unlikely to be an accurate reflection of your family’s needs when you die.