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Estate planning should start when life begins, not when it ends

Most people would associate estate planning with the end of life. But the best time for expectant parents to begin building an estate plan is soon after the child is born. Many of the legal ramifications in estate planning in New Jersey change when a baby is born and should be attended to as soon as possible after the birth.

Financial considerations, including everything from having sufficient insurance coverage to starting college accounts, are certainly important. But one of the most important issues to address is who to name as a legal guardian for your child. While no one ever likes to think about an unexpected illness or accident that results in incapacity or death, new parents who want to have a say in who will raise their child and control any assets inherited by the child should have a guardianship in place.

Similarly, life insurance coverage should be reexamined and changed to ensure that a surviving spouse will have the money necessary to care for the child alone, if necessary. Health insurance and medical coverage is also crucial. If the child has complications that arise at birth or after, special care may be needed which may far exceed the costs of the birth itself.

In many families, one parent may choose to stay home with the child and stop working outside the home. Not only will this decrease the money coming into the household, but benefits from the employer of the stay-at-home parent will have to be examined. Retirement accounts, Social Security benefits and employer-paid insurance should be addressed for immediate concerns as well as plan for how those assets can be best preserved or increased for future needs.

Having a new baby is an exciting time. But in the midst of the excitement, new parents should consider starting estate planning for themselves and also for the benefit of the new child. Families in New Jersey and other states may gain by working with knowledgeable professionals to make sure that their plan will ensure the best future for their new family member.

Source: USA Today, "LifeStages: Preparing financially for a family," Matt Krantz, Sept. 23, 2012

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