Many people don't think about an estate plan until they have their first child. If you already have a plan in place, having a child is a life event that warrants changes to it.
Whether you're starting from scratch or adding to an existing plan, following are some matters you'll need to address:
Guardians and trustees
Naming a guardian is many new parents' primary reason for finally tackling estate planning. Who will care for their child if something happens to both parents? What if (God forbid) you both die in a collision or end up in comas after a plane crash? This can be the most important decision you make. If you don't designate a guardian, the court will do it for you.
A trustee is the person who handles the money you have designated for taking care of their needs and investing, if there's enough, for your child's future. Think of this person as your child's treasurer. You may name your guardian as the child's sole trustee or designate a co-trustee for further insurance that the funds will be properly used and managed.
These include things like powers of attorney and health care proxies. They designate one or more people to care for your finances and see that your wishes are carried out if you're unable to speak for yourself.
Last will and testament
If you die without a will, the state will determine how your assets are split. Even if you want your spouse to have everything, it's best to put that in your will. You can also designate that your child inherits certain assets when they reach adulthood or at some later point.
Besides designating how assets are distributed, wills can be used to share your values with your children and your goals for them. This can be particularly valuable if you're not around to see them grow up.
Your New York estate planning attorney can recommend other documents, like trusts, that may be warranted depending on your individual situation. They'll also guide you through important steps like ensuring that you have the appropriate beneficiaries on your accounts and life insurance policy. Your attorney can also help you update your estate planning documents as your children grow into adulthood.