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What new parents need to include in their estate plans

Many younger adults never consider having an estate plan until they have children. If you and your spouse are thinking of working with a Maryland estate planning attorney to get your plans in place before the birth of your first child, there are a couple of key issues to think about.

One is designating a guardian for your child. It's best for the two of you to agree on the guardian(s). It's important to choose your guardian carefully. A relative or close friend may not always be the best choice. You need to consider objectively who you know who would be able to raise your child at least almost as well as you would.

Of course, once you've chosen someone, it's essential to make sure that this person (or couple) is on board with the idea. This isn't a symbolic godmother or godfather designation. Guardians are agreeing to be willing and able to raise your child should both parents pass away.

If the two of you absolutely can't agree on a guardian, one estate planning expert recommends that the spouses each designate their individual choice in their will. Then if they both die, a judge at least has two people to decide between rather than choosing from a host of relatives and friends.

Second, you want to make sure that your child is financially provided for. The best way to do this is usually by creating a trust. This helps ensure that the money is used exclusively for your child's care and not paying for someone's new Maserati.

It's best to appoint someone other than your child's guardian to manage the trust. This provides further insurance that the money will be used exclusively for your child, under whatever terms you designate. It creates a system of checks and balances that will help protect your child's future.

These are not easy decisions to make. Family members may get their feelings hurt if they aren't chosen for these important roles. However, your responsibility is to do what's best for your new child. Your attorney can help you evaluate your options and make the best choices.

Source: Morningstar, "Estate-Planning Musts for New Parents," Christine Benz, accessed July 12, 2017

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