New parents should consider estate planning

Date: May 12, 2011

Having a baby is one of life's most significant milestones and it also represents an excellent opportunity for new parents to think about estate planning - perhaps for the first time.

According to Hani Sargi of Forbes, there is a common misconception that estate planning is reserved for the likes of millionaires and the ultra-wealthy.

But in fact, he explained, everyone should draw up at least "a basic plan" that would set out instructions for what needs to happen in the event of an emergency, such as an illness or disability - or even death.

"Failing to have an estate plan can hurt the people you love," he remarked, adding that there are a number of things to consider before you make a plan of your own.

Citing advice from Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly Action-Oriented Guide by Deborah L Jacobs, he added that it is important to anticipate the needs of young or disabled children in the event of an unexpected tragedy.

New parents will want to speak to their lawyer about appointing a guardian to care for their children, as well as how to safely ensure funds are available for their son or daughter.

Wealth management writer Jean Blacklock asserted recently to the Star Phoenix that one of the most common estate planning mistakes people make is to fail to have a plan in place at all.

She added that in situations where there is no will to offer clear direction of what should be done with a person's assets, they are distributed according to a legal formula that does not take into account the individual's wishes and unique circumstances.

Many people underestimate the importance of having a will and have an "everything will be fine" attitude, but this can have unexpected - and potentially devastating - consequences should an unexpected emergency occur.

A trusted lawyer who you and feel comfortable discussing sometimes sensitive information with can help guide you through the process of preparing your first will.

Whether you are looking to draw up a simple will or a more complicated document using testamentary trusts, an experienced lawyer can give you the support you need to get your affairs in order.

This lawyer can also help you to appoint an Enduring Guardian - a person who looks after your medical care - or Powers of Attorney to address your financial affairs on your behalf.