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Estate Planning for Single Parents

No one with young children wants to think that something might happen to them. But for a single parent, that difficult thought brings on added worries. After all, what will happen to your child should the unthinkable happen.

Estate Planning for Single ParentsEveryone with children should prepare a will and other important documents. In my law practice in South Florida, I help single parents carefully think through what they would want to happen to their child if they unexpectedly passed away or became incapacitated. Here are a few guidelines to help.

Make a Will

Younger people often think a will is something older people need. But parents of young children, and especially single parents, need a will more than almost anyone else. That’s because in addition to money and property, you have the care of your child to consider. Whether your assets are vast or modest, a will carefully lays out your wishes. This keeps your children from experiencing a lengthy court battle among various relatives, which happens more often than you might think. You’ll want to revisit and update the will as your children grow.

Name a Guardian

One of the most important sections of your will is to name a guardian. This person, a very close relative or friend whom you trust deeply, will care for your child if you pass away and the child’s other parent is not alive or has no parental rights; a guardian can also manage the money that goes to your children from your will.

You can additionally name a guardian in a document outside of your will. Florida law allows you to designate a “preneed guardian,” a person who will be legally responsible for your children if you become incapacitated, a condition that does not trigger the will. This simple document can be drafted by an attorney when they make up your will.

You’ll want to revisit your choice of guardian over the years. Someone who might be appropriate for your children when they are young might not be best if they are teenagers, especially if that would mean uprooting them to another state.

Consider a Trustee

If you prefer to break up the roles of the person who would care for your children and the one who oversees their money, you can name a trustee in your will to manage your child’s assets.  The trustee’s role can terminate when your child reaches adulthood, or can continue for as long as desired.

Determine If You Need a Special Trust

If you have a lot of money or a child with special needs, you might want to create a trust for your children. This money is placed into the trust at a bank when you create it. Your child cannot access this money until they reach the age you specify, typically 21 or later.

Life Insurance

You can name your minor child as a beneficiary of your life insurance. But if you pass away before they become of age, their guardian or trustee will be in charge of the money.

If you are interested in drafting a will or other documents for your estate planning in South Florida, contact the Law Office of Gary Landau for a FREE legal consultation at 954-979-6566 or by email. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.

Other Documents You Need To Create Along With Your Will

Other Estate Planning DocumentsIf you have a will or have been thinking of creating one, don’t forget to also have your attorney draft these other, equally important, documents in the state of Florida:

  • Health Care Surrogate. If you’re in a hospital too sick or unconscious to make treatment decisions for yourself (Should you have surgery? One type of medication or another?), whom do you want to be making them for you? This isn’t always as straightforward as it seems—while most people select their spouse or grown child, if your partner suffers from severe depression, say, or your kid lives across the country, you may do better selecting a friend or other relative. This should be a person who knows you well, so they can deduce what types of interventions you would desire if you were able to make these decisions.
  • Living Will. Doctors like to do all they can to save patients near death, which sometimes includes performing CPR or putting them on a ventilator. If you become terminally ill, however, you may prefer to be treated only for pain, and not to be aggressively or artificially kept alive. A living will—also called an advance directive—notifies your doctor of what you desire. (Note that this is different from a health care surrogate, because this covers only end-of-life decisions.) Doctors can use your living will to determine, for example, if they should put a “do not resuscitate” order in your chart.
  • Financial Power of Attorney. This person can act in your place financially—withdrawing your money, signing contracts binding you, and, depending on how the POA is drafted, even selling your home. Until a few years ago, you could create a “springing” POA, which took effect only if you became very ill. Changes in the law now mean that as soon as you sign the document, the person has power over your money and possessions. I advise clients to create this only if they are very elderly or sick, and have someone they trust completely. I’ve seen cases where a POA has been valuable in ensuring that an ill person’s bills are being paid or the home they can no longer live in is sold, but I’ve also seen unscrupulous POAs used to clean out bank accounts and pocket the money.  A frank discussion with your own family and then with your attorney will help determine if this is right for you.

Attorneys typically draft these documents in a package along with your will, to keep your costs down. Contact The Law Office of Gary Landau  at 954-979-6566 to discuss which documents are right for you.

Estate Planning: Why Wills Aren’t Just for Princes

Last WillThe death of the musician Prince is more than just a tragedy of a brilliant life cut way too short. It’s also a reminder that anything can happen at any time, and a cautionary tale for all of us about the importance of drafting a will, no matter how far off death may appear.

According to an article in the New York Times, Prince, who died at age 57 and had no spouse or children, died without a will, a situation legally known as dying intestate. And before you say, “I don’t have the assets that he had,” know that dividing up dollars is not the only benefit a will provides.

If you don’t currently have an updated will, consider drafting one. Here are some reasons why it could be important:

1. A will says who will be the executor of your estate.

The executor is the person in charge of handling the legal process, or probate, after your death. A good executor, who in Florida is called a personal representative, works with an attorney to ensure that your estate is divided up quickly and fairly; a poor one can delay or prejudice the process and stoke friction within the surviving family.

2. A will names the guardian for your children.

If you’ve got young children, having an updated will is crucial. This document names the friend or relative you want to take care of your kids, known as their guardian, until they turn 18, a designation that keeps grandparents or siblings from battling it out after you’re gone. And if you drafted a will and named a guardian when your children were tiny and now they’re teens, take another look to see if the guardian needs changing. When my kids were little, we named my wife’s sister in another state as their guardian, because she was raising kids of her own; once our kids became teens, it made sense to switch it to their local grandparents, so they wouldn’t be uprooted from their friends and school if tragedy struck.

3. A will lets you decide where your assets are going.

Of course, the biggest reason you should have a will is that, without one, it is state law, not you, that dictates who gets what. You may want your best friend to get your new Lexus, for example, but the law states that without a will your assets go to your closest relatives–even if you haven’t spoken to them in years.

If you would like to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney, please contact us at The Law Office of Gary Landau, P.A. Our office is conveniently located in Coral Springs, Florida.