Being a father is challenging, especially after a divorce. Many fathers feel lost, confused, and ashamed after going through the divorce process, despite the fact that a divorce is not an indication of failure.
During this raw emotional time, it can be difficult to think about your own death. However, it is important for your children that you do so. Making a valid estate plan with the help of an attorney can protect your assets and your children for many years after you are gone.
Estate plans may seem complicated, but in reality, they are extremely beneficial. Our team at Stange Law Firm is here to help you with any estate planning or estate planning issues you encounter as a father.
What Is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is an organization of documents and accounts that prepares your loved ones and your assets for your death. When you pass away, these documents and accounts will be used to distribute your assets, settle your debts, and help your family move forward.
A will is a very common type of estate planning tool. These documents are fairly basic. However, they can outline who should receive major assets after you pass. In these documents, you can also assign guardianship for your children if you pass away before they become adults.
Assigning guardianship is key for single fathers, especially if the child’s mother is not a viable option for guardianship. If you do not assign a new guardian for your child, they may end up with a distant relative or in the foster care system. These two situations are not ideal for a grieving child.
There are additional estate planning options available to you. Nevertheless, you should at least have a will if you have children or major assets, such as a home.
A trust is a much more complicated estate planning option, but it is also more powerful. A trust is an account that you create and that is held by a trustee. When you pass away, the trustee distributes the assets in the trust to your beneficiaries. Because the trustee had control of the trust, and did not pass away, the items in the trust usually avoid probate court. This saves time and keeps assets with your beneficiaries rather than the state.
With the help of an estate planning lawyer, you can create a trust that benefits your family and children. However, in most circumstances, individuals do not create a trust until they have amassed some significant assets.
Why Estate Planning Is Essential for Single Fathers
Estate planning is important for everyone. If a person dies without a will or trust, they die “intestate.” This means that all their assets move through probate and are then released to their next of kin. For many people, their next of kin is their spouse. However, if you are divorced or single, the assets will go to your children.
If you remarry at any point and then die without a will, your spouse will receive all your assets. If your spouse chooses, they can refrain from giving any of your assets to your children. This leaves them with nothing, even if you had hoped to leave them some support.
Creating an estate plan protects your children and ensures that you have control over what happens to your assets.
Q: How Soon Should a Father Create an Estate Plan?
A: At the very least, all parents should create a will when they have children. This protects their children from being placed in the foster system. It also ensures that they receive some of your assets to support them. If you wish to add a trust or other estate planning tool to your estate in the future, you can do so. It is never too soon to begin the estate planning process.
Q: Can I Make a Will Without an Attorney?
A: There are programs and options for those who wish to make their own will. However, these tools are extremely fickle. It is common for self-made wills to be invalidated in probate court. This leaves your family no better off than if you had failed to make an estate plan at all.
Investing in an attorney’s help can give you peace of mind. It can also provide added protection for your family.
Q: What Should I Look for in an Estate Planning Attorney as a Single Father?
A: When browsing for a family attorney, your top priority should be to find someone with experience with cases like yours. Although all situations are different, single fatherhood can cause unique issues in the estate planning process. Therefore, you want to find someone who knows how to navigate these challenges.
It is also important to find an attorney with whom you can communicate. You will be working closely with them and discussing sensitive topics. This makes reliable and clear communication key.
Q: Can My Child Inherit My Assets If They Are a Minor?
A: In most cases, no. State laws prohibit individuals from inheriting major assets like property and financial accounts before they turn 18. If your child is in these circumstances, they will likely obtain control over their inheritance when they turn 18.
Even if your child is under 18, you should consider them in your will. Even a delayed inheritance can provide essential support for a child who has lost a parent.
Q: Can I Name Guardianship in a Will If I Share Custody?
A: You can name guardians in your will if you share custody, but it is up to the judge what happens with custody. More likely than not, the child’s other parent will assume full custody if you pass away. Their grandparents may be permitted certain rights as well. Talk to an attorney about what to do if you are in this situation.
Contact Stange Law Firm
Our team at Stange Law Firm has years of experience with estate and family law. We are here to help fathers navigate custody, divorce, support, and estate planning. Contact us to learn more.