I recently had a beer with a buddy. It had a been a while since we got together and it was good to catch up.
After a couple of beers, our conversation turned to his estate plan. His only child recently turned 18 and he told me that it was time to plan. I politely nodded but what I was thinking was, "no, the time to plan was when she was born." In any case I was glad he decided to do something.
My buddy is a single father who shares custody of his child with his ex-wife. Despite their divorce, they share have a close and cordial relationship. He is also very involved in the life on his child and they are close. He wanted to know what he needed to do.
Single parents have unique estate planning needs. Most of the code sections that address estate planning are designed to address the needs of married individuals. Sure, the code provides who will get your stuff, but issues such as who can make medical decisions for a single adult are little more blurry. In addition, single parents needs and goals can vary drastically and the code is pretty rigid in its assumptions.
A single parent really needs to plan, and I was glad my buddy called.
A single parent needs to think about guardians for their children. The logical choice for a guardian of a minor child is the surviving parent. However, who should serve after that? Should it be a member of your family or a member of the ex-spouse's family? Don't you want a say? If the answer is yes, you should plan.
Maybe you want your child or children to receive all of your property. A simple "I love you" estate plan is common. However, what happens if your child is a minor or, in the case of my buddy, 18 years old? Do you really want an 18-year-old to inherit a pile of money, even a small one? If the answer is no, then you need to plan.
What happens if you are unable to take care of your affairs or make medical decisions? If you haven't given someone the authority to help you out, you may require a guardianship. Who serves as guardian? Is the court going to appoint an 18-year-old high school kid a guardian? Maybe, but maybe not.
Everyone's needs are different, but everyone has needs. I'm glad my buddy recognized this and made the call. He's a young health guy, but bad things can and sometimes do happen. Having something in place just in case is the adult thing to do.