Most people think that estate planning is only for the rich and famous. While you may think that you do not fall into that category, contrary to popular belief those who are not rich and famous should also consider having their estate planning documents in order prior to death or incapacity, and this is especially true if you are a single mom! Planning for death or incapacity might not be something you ever thought of, but if you fail to plan for it, there is a possibility that someone you haven’t selected might be making decision on your behalf that could possibly affect the care of your children. Before I go any further I want to point out that while the following information deals with legal subject matter, it is not legal advice or legal representation. Because of the rapidly changing nature of the law, neither the author of this article nor the staff of the Life of Single Mom Ministries makes any warranty or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of information contained in this article, therefore we assume no responsibility for any information provided. I need to stress that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No one should rely upon the information as constituting legal advice. Please consult an attorney for advice pertaining to your individual circumstances.
With the disclaimers out of the way, why as a single mom should you consider having an estate plan?
When you die, your property will go somewhere
No matter if you have estate planning documents or not, your property will go to someone else, it just might not go where you want it to go. For example if you do not have your property or accounts titled/registered in the correct way, if you have out of date beneficiaries on your contracts (life insurance or retirement accounts for instance), or you die intestate (which means dying without a Will), the person or persons who might be relying on those assets after you die could face a financial burden because those resources might not be available or their distribution may be significantly delayed.
Make your wishes known NOW while you are competent
Nobody ever plans on becoming ill or being involved in an accident that may leave them physically or mentally unable to manage their affairs. If you become unable to communicate or make rational decisions, especially regarding your health, money or the care of your children, not only could it leave you in a bind but also the people who might have to take care of you.
Try to protect your children as much as possible
You might consider having an attorney help you create a Testamentary Trust. A Testamentary Trustis established by your Will and in it you can appoint a responsible representative or guardian to help oversee your assets and also make specific instructions regarding the health and welfare for your children if they were ever to be orphaned.
Pay now or someone else may pay more later
How much will this cost you? Sitting down with an attorney that specializes in estate planning may cost you some money now, but it might be worth it in the long run. There are low cost and pro bono legal services available for low income single moms for those who qualify.
What could happen if I don’t have an estate plan?
State law will decide who gets your property, not you! A judge will determine who gets custody of your children, not you! There are many other things that could happen such as additional expenses, fees, taxes, etc. but no matter how much money you might or might not have, it is important to have your estate planning documents in place and in order because not doing so can bring about much emotional and financial pain for the people you leave behind!
Steve Repak, CFP® is a Financial Literacy Speaker, Army veteran, and author of 6 Week Money Challenge: For Your Personal Finances (January 2016) and Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money (January 2012). Steve has helped many people turn their finances around with his inspiring financial literacy presentations and one-on-one financial coaching.For more information about Steve, his books or if you would like him to speak at your or next event visit www.steverepak.com
The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM) is a 501c3 nonprofit that exists to serve single parents and those who work with single parents. We are fully accredited through a variety of organizations that include high levels of financial accountability and awards for our premiere financial stewardship, including GuideStar, Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, Great Nonprofits, Chamber of Commerce, LANO, and others.