It is never too early to prepare for your family’s future, but waiting to make arrangements could be disastrous. These tips are designed to explain legal and financial options that may help protect your family should something happen to you.
1. Estate Plan – Protect your family’s financial interests with an estate plan.
2. Guardian (Custodian) – If you have children, you will need to appoint a guardian in your will. The guardian you select will care for your children should anything happen to you and your spouse. Carefully consider the willingness, financial responsibility, age and health of a potential guardian. It may be beneficial to appoint a separate trustee (conservator) to govern your children’s finances. Talk openly to anyone you appoint about your wishes.
3. Special Needs Children – With a host of immediate issues such as day-to-day care and education, the parents of special needs children may find it difficult to plan for the future. Advance planning is particularly important for special needs children. Laws regarding trusts, insurance and education vary greatly.
4. Life Insurance – Term life insurance may be more affordable, but you should examine all available options and consider the amount of coverage your family will need if something happens to you. It may be beneficial for women to purchase life insurance before becoming pregnant. Some health issues that may arise during or after pregnancy could increase the cost or affect the ability to purchase insurance.
5. Beneficiary Designations – Your will does not determine distribution of life insurance policies or any other accounts with a named “due on death” (DOD) beneficiary. Life insurance policies, retirement plans and investment accounts with a DOD designation are paid out to the beneficiaries who you selected. If you wish to change a beneficiary you must contact the insurance company or financial institution directly.
6. Short-term Disability Insurance – Even a brief absence from work may create a severe financial burden on your family. Short-term disability insurance supplements wages lost during a short-term medical absence from work. Many plans require you to exhaust any leave paid for by your employer before benefits begin. Some plans reduce the coverage period for certain absences such as maternity leave. Before you sign up for coverage, review the policy terms, including the amount, duration of coverage and limitations.
7. Long-term Disability Insurance – Long-term disability insurance is every bit as vital as life insurance. An extended illness or disability can be financially devastating. Should you become disabled, it may take a significant amount of time for any government assistance to take effect.
8. Legal Documents – Keep your estate plan, insurance information and other important documents somewhere secure, such as a safe deposit box, and make sure your family knows where to find them if needed.
9. Talk to Your Family – Discuss your wishes, arrangements and insurance coverage with your spouse, anyone you appoint in your will and older children. It is important that your family knows how to proceed should anything happen to you.