The past two years have been an amazing time for me and my family. Between my children, my nieces and nephews, as well as extended family and friends, ten babies were born in my family in the years 2014 and 2015.
As a responsible attorney, as well as a loving nana and great-auntie, I would be amiss if I did not take this opportunity to educate new parents on legal documents that are essential to protect the futures of their children. As an attorney, I believe there are four documents that every parent should have in place: Life Insurance, a Last Will and Testament, Disability Insurance and a Living Will/Advance Directive. These documents are vital to ensure the future of dependent children.
Life insurance is very affordable for people in their 20s and 30s. Life insurance is not taxable, so it is a more economical alternative than saving money in the event of a catastrophe. Also because a life insurance policy names a beneficiary, it is not considered part of the decadent’s estate and therefore not subject to probate.
A general rule is that major wage earners should insure themselves for at least ten times their annual salary. However, it is also important that a stay-at-home parent is insured. While the stay-at-home parent may not contribute monetary, a couple needs to consider how much it would cost to replace the services, such as child care, house cleaning, transportation, etc. that a stay-at-home parent provides.
Usually, children under 18 years of age can be placed on the life insurance policy of one of the parents for an affordable price. Generally a child is only insured for burial, because they do not contribute financially to the household.
Last Will and Testament
Most people think of the elderly and the terminally ill when you mention a last will and testament; but wills also serve a critical function for young parents. A will is the only legal instrument available in which a parent can designate who they want to raise their children.
If a parent dies intestate; that is to say, without a will, the court in which the parent resides decides who is awarded custody of their children. This is usually no problem if the parent wants their children’s grandparents or another relative to be awarded custody of their children. However, if they desire someone such as a godparent or a close friend to raise their children, they will need a will.
For married couples wills are pretty simple. The husband leaves everything to his wife; the wife leaves everything to her husband. It’s only in situations where both parents are deceased that other people become involved.
Wills are more complicated for single parents. If a single parent dies without a will, the court will give first consideration to the surviving parent. Often this is not a problem, however if a parent wants someone other than the surviving parent to be awarded custody, a will is crucial.
The person who is making the will needs to choose someone they trust to act as executor (the person who will execute their wishes). This may be the same person named to handle burial, life insurance and other life-ending affairs.
Most employers offer disability insurance for a few dollars a month; get it. A young person is more likely to be disabled in an accident than to be killed. Disability insurance can fill in the gap financially if you cannot work because of accident or illness. One of the major reasons individuals file bankruptcy is because of unpaid medical bills. Disability Insurance can help protect a parent’s financially stability.
My children’s father died in September 2014; my brother died in August 2015; both had living wills. I think taking the time to make living wills was one of the most loving things they ever did. A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a document that provides instructions for end-of-life care. Through a living will a person can indicate at the end of their life, if they want to remain on or be taken off of life support systems. When a terminally ill person has a living will, decisions regarding end of life decisions are made in advance.
I know young people very seldom think about the possibility of death, but death is not just for the old and feeble; the young die too. It is not enough to tell your spouse or significant other your wishes because they may not be strong enough when the time comes to make the decision. Also these conversations are difficult to have and most couples will delay these discussions until tragedy forces them to face grim reality.
The living will forms are very easy to fill out and do not need to be notarized. Most states have standard forms that can be printed from their websites. They are also readily available at most hospitals and medical centers.
None of these topics are to discuss. But as new parents, it is crucial to understand that these are issues that can affect your children’s future. The bible says, “Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (I Timothy 5:8)”. Make sure that while you are tending to your children’s daily needs, you also have a contingency plan in place in case they have to live their lives without you.
Please contact me if you have any questions, or want further information regarding any of the above-mentioned topics.
Kiss the babies for me.
Phelps Law Firm, LLC
PO Box 510293
St. Louis, MO 63151
Phone: (314) 669-4150
Landra G. Phelps, Managing Attorney