If you have small children, what would happen to your children if you and/or your spouse were to die prematurely? Many parents of young children neglect to engage in estate planning. They assume that since they are young and healthy the odds of something happening to them are relatively slim. Yet, accidents and tragedies exist in our world. Young parents must be concerned with who will take care of the children and how their children’s needs will be met. Basic estate planning in the state of Virginia gives parents peace of mind and the knowledge that they are prepared, should the worst happen.
Do You Need a Child Protection Plan?
If you are a mom or dad with one or more children under the age of 18, you may need a Child Protection Plan. A Child Protection Plan is a set of legal documents prepared for you by an experienced Virginia estate planning attorney. These documents typically include an Appointment of Temporary Guardian, a Parental Consent for Medical Treatment, and a Medical Information form. The Appointment of Temporary Guardian will name a trusted person who will take immediate custody of your children in the event of your death or incapacitation. The Medical Information form will contain all information related to your child’s health including immunizations, current medications, allergies, medical conditions, health insurance information and pediatrician information.
The Parental Consent for Medical Treatment will allow the temporary guardian to seek medical care for your children should the need arise. A special wallet card is included in your Child Protection Plan; this card is registered with a national database, which contains the necessary information for each child.
If you should be in an accident, your Child Protection Plan ensures your children will never be turned over to the state, simply because there are no clear instructions. While a Child Protection Plan is crucial, you also need additional documents that detail long-term plans for your children. These documents can include:
- A permanent guardian designation, usually named in the Will. It is (understandably) hard to imagine other people raising your children. It is, nonetheless, vitally important that you choose a guardian whose age, experience, religious beliefs, temperament, values, and relationship with your children meshes with your own beliefs about how your children should be raised. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to consider a guardian who is “local” and can allow your children to remain in their current school. It is recommended that you not only name primary guardians, but successor guardians as well in the event the primary guardians are unable to serve.
- In addition to designating permanent guardians for your children, your Will designates how your assets will be handled. Depending on the extent of your assets, you may want to consider a revocable trust which offers much more flexibility. Assets in a revocable trust do not have to go through probate, so are readily available to your children while allowing distribution of a portion of the assets at a later date (when the child is 21, 25, 30, etc.)
- When considering estate planning, buying a life insurance policy should not be overlooked. Your life insurance policy should replace the amount you would earn for as many years as you can comfortably afford. Look into both term life insurance and whole life insurance. Term life insurance is typically more affordable, is in effect for a set number of years, and is a good choice for young parents.
Young parents should also have a durable power of attorney for health care and finances as well as an advance medical directive—also known as a living will. A living will sets out your wishes for end-of-life care. These documents can be as detailed or as general as you choose.
While facing our own mortality is not something most of us relish, it is important that your children are taken care of in a manner you choose. A skilled Virginia estate planning attorney can make the process much less confusing, ensuring your wishes are properly and legally set forth.