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Developing an estate plan after you have a baby

Many Californians don't consider developing an estate plan until they have a child. Then, the primary consideration is often who will be that child's guardian(s) should both parents pass away or be unable to care for their offspring.

That's certainly not something that anyone wants to consider, but it could happen in the blink of an eye in a car accident, plane crash or other catastrophic event. Even if you have parents and siblings who love your children and would make good caretakers, by failing to codify that, your loved ones could well end up in court fighting to be appointed guardians.

Naming a guardian isn't about choosing your best friend(s). They may be fine people, but would they raise your children with the values you want them to have? It may be a good idea to avoid each of you naming your best friends as co-guardians. (See the romantic comedy "Life as We Know It" for an example of how messy that can be.)

Once you've decided on the people to whom you want to entrust your child, it's essential to talk with them and make sure that they are agreeable to this. It's not the same as being a godmother or godfather. It's a legal commitment to raise a child.

The other thing you need to do when developing a will or estate plan to ensure that your child is cared for is to set aside money for that care and perhaps for the child as he or she gets older. This is generally done via a trust. No matter how much faith you have in your designated guardians, you can and should place stipulations on what the trust money can be used for.

For people who have never dealt with a will or any kind of estate planning, this process can seem daunting. However, experienced California estate planning attorneys can guide you through the process and help you make sure that your new baby's future is as secure as possible if anything happens to you.

Source: Morningstar, "Estate-Planning Musts for New Parents," Christine Benz, accessed June 27, 2017

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