Whether you’re in the planning stages, growing into your chic maternity wear or have a little one in the nursery already, you know that being a parent changes everything. So while you may wonder if you’ll ever fit into your skinny jeans again (you will), you wonder more about your baby’s future, how to give your child the best of everything and how to protect your entire family. By putting the right plans in place from the get-go, you can stop worrying about the what-ifs.
Part of raising kids is letting them make mistakes. As they get older, their mistakes will grow right along with them. (Case in point: Cutting a doll’s hair at age four is way less serious than getting a crush’s name tattooed on one’s back at 18. Agree?)
But life is full of surprises—some pleasant, some not so much. And it’s the ones that change your child’s life forever that you worry about the most. Since you and your spouse (or partner) are your child’s primary providers, you must think of the unthinkable: what if something happens to one or both of you, or even your child?
Sure, it’s hard to think about. But the best thing you can do is have a plan in place to protect your family. Here’s what you need to know.
You Need Life Insurance
First, get enough life insurance for you and your spouse/partner to provide long-term financial security for your family. This is important because life insurance can:
Ensure all of your debts would be covered should something happen to you or your spouse/partner. Like most young families, you probably have few investments and large debts (a mortgage, car loan and outstanding credit card debt, for example).
Replace a breadwinner’s lost income or pay for childcare should either parent die, ideally until the children reach 18 years of age or older.
Cover funeral expenses and buy the time needed for a grieving family to adjust to the loss of a parent.
You may also consider securing a basic term life insurance policy and/or critical illness policy for your child. Why would they need it? It starts them on a financial path early on and ensures that they can build on that plan and not get denied coverage down the road should they get ill — as you pray they won’t — at a young age. Your insurance provider/financial planner can guide you in the right direction.
You Need Up-to-Date Wills
You and your spouse/partner need to have valid, up-to-date wills. If you don’t, your estate will be divided according to provincial laws, which may not reflect your wishes. An up-to-date will allows you to:
Appoint a representative to administer your estate. Depending on where you live, your representative may be called an executor, estate trustee or liquidator. This person or company is responsible for settling with creditors and distributing your assets according to the terms of your will. It’s a good idea to name an alternative representative in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to accept the duties.
Appoint a guardian, or “tutor” in Quebec, to care for your dependent children.
Set up a testamentary trust within your will. A trust allows you to leave instructions as to how certain estate assets are to be managed over time, rather than giving them to a beneficiary outright. For instance, you might set up a testamentary trust to provide regular income or to pay for post-secondary education for your children and manage their assets on their behalf until they reach a specified age.
You Need Powers of Attorney
A will is vital, but it doesn’t come into effect until you pass away. You also need to consider the possibility of becoming seriously ill or disabled and unable to make financial decisions. In that case, you want to protect your property and your personal care. Here’s why:
To protect your property. To protect against this contingency, you need a continuing power of attorney for property. (In Quebec, it’s called a mandate in anticipation of incapacity.)
To protect your personal care. Similarly, a power of attorney for personal care enables you to name someone to make decisions about your medical care.
Get the Right Advice
Life insurance, wills and powers of attorney are the building blocks of your estate plan. With professional advice, you can use them to protect your family now and in the future.
Yes, it can be complicated. Yes, it can be a difficult conversation to have. But the peace of mind that comes with having a plan of protection in place is priceless.
All this to think about and your child hasn’t even started driving, dating—or perhaps even moved beyond diapers—yet! Just remember that having an estate plan in place helps ensure you can give your children the best of everything. And isn’t that what every parent wants?