Baby on the Way? 4 Legal Steps Every Parent Must Take
I don’t want to put a damper on your pregnancy buzz, but there are some hardcore, grown-up things every parent must think about and do when a child is on the way. The truth is, you need a will. There’s no way around it. It basically lays out where your assets are to go if you should die. I know, the uhthinkable. But being a good parent means preparing for the future and all situations. And to be really straight with you, a good will is just the starting point. Here are a few legal documents every mom should have in place for her child.
1: Durable power of attorney. Wills are good, but they aren’t perfect. They cover you in case of death, but don’t cover you if you are severely incapacitated. This is particularly important for single parents. A durable power of attorney means that the person you have selected, your agent, will also act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. It is a simple way to make sure that your finances stay in the hands of a trusted person you choose.
To create a legally valid durable power of attorney, you need to only complete and sign a fill-in-the-blanks form that is a few pages long. About a dozen states have their own forms published in the statue books. Go to a law library and look up Durable Power of Attorney in the index to the state statues. Then type out a document, following the model form exactly. After you complete the form you must sign it in the presence of a notary public. In some states, a witness may be required.
2: Revocable trust with an incapacity clause. Sounds absolutely horrible, right? I know but please stay with me: you need the best protection for your child. This mouthful of a document details how you want your finances handled if you become incapable of making these decisions yourself. If you should pass away, the trust becomes the blueprint for the way you want your finances to be managed. And if you happen to die when your child is a minor, the revocable trust takes care of the child’s well-being and eliminates the need for your family to go through the process of probate guardianship.
This all sounds time-consuming and mentally taxing, but there are actually CD-ROM programs to help you draw up your own personalized documents based on the laws in your state.
3: Durable powers of attorney for health care. This document details your wishes about how you want doctors to care for you if you become critically ill or require life support. You can usually get one from a hospital at no cost.
4: Talk. Set aside time to have a talk with your partner about the financial aspects of raising your kids. We can spend a lot of time thinking about how you can “afford” children, but there are other aspects to child rearing: Will there be allowances? What types of gifts are permitted? Are you planning on public school or private school? My husband was raised on the basics, by a single mother who had six kids, so he couldn’t always understand my definition of “necessary” spending on our children. Bridget, a brand-name-labelmeister from Mount Vernon, New York, hit a few road blacks with her husband when she took home BabyGap, baby Guess!, and Polo by Ralph Lauren and he proudly took home loads of “slightly irregular” baby clothes from Costco, the wholesale store.” Having a conversation about the financial rules of the house and future guidelines for the kids can help limit the drama down the road.
What are some things you are doing to get your life in order for the baby?