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Why estate planning is crucial for single parents

Many Californians are single parents raising young children. In some cases, the other parent has passed away. Maybe the other parent has no custody rights. Perhaps they've chosen to have or adopt a child on their own.

Whatever the case, it's essential to ensure that your child will be cared for if you pass away or become incapacitated and unable to care for them. That's why single parents need an estate plan.

Most single parents' primary concern is finding the appropriate person or people to take on the responsibility of raising their child if anything happens to them. This is probably the most important decision you'll make when drafting your estate plan. You need to find someone whom you trust who is able and willing to take on the full-time care of a child and raise them to adulthood as you intended.

You may also want to designate visitation and/or decision-making rights for others. For example, perhaps a sibling will assume guardianship of your child, but you wish to allow your deceased co-parent's family members to have visitation rights and/or a say in the child's education or health care decisions. Of course, giving too many people a say in these important matters can cause complications.

Single parents should also set up trusts to manage assets your child will inherit. The trust can also be used for funds received from any settlements or judgments. For example, if you die in a freeway crash caused by a drunk driver, your family may be able to file a lawsuit on behalf of your child against the driver and/or other defendants.

When setting up a trust, you'll also need to name a trustee to manage and disburse the funds to and for your child. You can designate how the funds in the trust are to be used, from living expenses to their eventual college education.

Estate planning should never be postponed. No matter how young or healthy we may be, no one knows what the future will bring. However, if you are a single parent, having a detailed estate plan in place that designates your wishes and provides for your child can save that child and your other family members considerable stress and turmoil.

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