Estate planning concerns for single parents

Parental expectations about their children often determine the structure of North Carolina estate plans. For single parents, the stakes tied to estate planning may be even greater. In cases where a single parent dies leaving a minor child, the child might be forced to leave the area in order to live with the other parent or a different relative. The state of the relationship with the other parent is often a major factor in making planning decisions.

It is common for the custodial parent to believe the child's other parent is the best option to take over custody in case of death or incapacity. For some parents though, this option is untenable. If the custodial parent does not want the other parent to step in, he or she will need a network ready to act in the child's best interests.

A trust is a good option for many single parents when it comes to distributing assets to the children. Trusts can be designed to accept funds from retirement plans, life insurance policies and judgments or settlements that arise from the parent's death. The trust should be in place so the court has something from which to determine the parent's expectations and wishes.

A trust may name the intended guardian along with alternative guardians. It should outline how the parent intends funds to be used, including the level of discretion granted to the children, and it should clarify the people that have rights of visitation. A lawyer might be able to help single parents develop an estate plan that fits their needs and goals. The lawyer might suggest a will, various types of trusts, or other estate planning instruments to effect the transfer of assets and give instructions for the care of the child going forward.

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