Estate Planning for Young Families

With a young and growing family, it seems you hardly have enough time to take care of the day-to-day business of life, let alone start making plans for a far-distant future. Ironically, when your family is young is when you need to make some of these long-term decisions the most. Life happens whether we are ready or not.

Although you may not have had the time to accumulate much in the way of savings or investments, the most important things in your life–your spouse and young children–deserve your attention.

To illustrate the point, I’d like to use the example of having you go out with your spouse for the evening. You put significant time into vetting and selecting a babysitter because you want to be sure the person taking care of your children is going to watch them responsibly: keeping them out of dangerous situations, feeding them a healthy meal, monitoring their TV selections to ensure they don’t watch inappropriate shows, and making sure they brush their teeth before they go to bed at their bedtime. To be on the safe side, you give the babysitter your cell number as well as the phone number of the restaurant where you and your spouse will be dining. With all those precautions taken, you head out for the evening.

Now, to drive home the point, let’s get a little negative. All of your short-term preparations aside, what would happen if you never come back home? Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to get hit and killed by a drunk driver on your way home from a dinner out on the town than something happening to your children at home. Have you made the same preparations to care for your children over the long term that you did for one night out?

Here’s just a handful of the questions you should ponder: Have you thought about who your children’s guardians will be? Have you considered who best shares and lives by the principles you value? Are they at a point in their life where they would be able to take on the additional responsibility of raising your children? Do they have the financial experience to handle a sudden increase in financial liabilities? Have you made the necessary financial arrangements to ensure that raising your children would not create an economic burden for the guardians? Have you discussed all of these issues with the prospective guardians? Most importantly, have you formalized these plans in a current will? Without that final step, all of these decisions will be left for a court, not you, to decide.

Returning to a more positive outlook, a simple estate planning package that addresses all of these issues and more costs about the same amount of money that you would spend on dinner for two at a nice restaurant. Rather than procrastinating, you should consult a qualified estate planning attorney who can review your family situation, your current financial status and future goals, and explain to you the various options you have. Once you have put in place your estate plan, you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have provided for your family in case the worst happens.


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