Thursday, September 5, 2013

A New Baby! What Do I Do Now?

Congratulations to our legal assistant, Amanda, on the birth of her new baby boy.  A new addition to the family is a wonderful and busy time, getting used to new routines and trying to get everyone on a schedule.  When you finally get a second to breathe, you might start thinking about your child’s future.  When should I set up a college fund?  Should I get additional life insurance?  What about writing a will?  These are all important questions and I will deal with the latter in this blog.

Having a baby, like any life-changing event, is a perfect time to re-evaluate your situation.  Whether it’s the birth of a child, a divorce, or the death of a family member, your life will never be the same.  These are the times to think about both your financial and legal situation. 

From a legal perspective, the birth of a child means not only an additional beneficiary, but also the need to plan for the unexpected.  If both parents should die, who would care for the child?  This is the time for a serious discussion with the other parent.  If the unthinkable happens and you failed to put your choice in a proper legal document, there could be a serious conflict between family members.  Grandma and Aunt Mary may both believe they are the obvious and only choice.  But would that be in the child’s best interest?  Is that what you would have wanted? Who decides?  Unfortunately, it would be the judge, a complete stranger.  That is not who should make such a critical decision.  It should be you and your spouse or partner.  An expensive court battle over the custody of your child is the last thing you would want to leave your grieving family.

The solution, which is relatively easy, is to draft a simple will naming an agreed-upon person to assume the roles of personal guardian and trustee.  The guardian has physical custody of your child should you die before your child reaches majority age (currently 18 in Missouri) and the trustee handles your child's finances.  It can be the same person, but does not have to be.  You can also name back-ups for those appointments.  The loving aunt who your child adores may be terrible with finances, so choose carefully.  It will probably never be needed, but if it is, you want your child to be in the best hands possible . . . the ones you chose.