Estate Planning for Single Parents

June 7, 2021

All parents weigh very important decisions when it comes to their children’s future and well-being. Creating an estate plan allows parents to voice those decisions and help ensure specific instructions are carried out even if the parents are no longer available due to death or incapacity. Since it is much rarer for both parents to die simultaneously, when one parent dies, the other is typically available to help the children move forward with many of the same consistencies. They often remain in the same home, school and community. This may not be the case for a single parent. It is critical for single parents to carefully think through an approach to help their children transition in the best possible way.

Naming a Guardian

One of the most important considerations is naming a guardian. This may be the other parent. In the case of divorce, a separation agreement may already designate the other parent as full custodian in the event of the other’s death. If this is this case, that will trump another person named as guardian in your will or trust, unless it can be shown to a court that new circumstances have arisen causing this arrangement to not be in the child(ren)’s best interests. If no such agreement exists, and the other parent is no longer available, then you can name someone to take over as legal guardian. You can also list alternates. It is important to consider the relationship this person has with your child(ren) as well as the ability to provide appropriate care.

Setting up a Trust

You can either set up a living trust or include the formation of a testamentary trust in your will. Either way, you need the assets that will provide financial means to your child(ren) placed in a trust. You can name who should serve as the trustee and you can provide very detailed instructions for how these funds should be used to benefit your child(ren). For example, you can allocate certain amounts towards their special interests and activities. You can set aside money for higher education, future vacations, a car or any other items that you wish. This of course all depends on the amount available beyond the basic care and maintenance needed.

The trust can also provide instructions regarding visitation rights and outline who can make important decisions and provide advice for your child such as where they attend school, religious practices, medical decisions and day-to-day routines. Keep in mind that all of these instructions may not be enforceable, but they help give a caregiver and the trustee a clear picture of the future you envision for your child so they can attempt to create that future as closely as possible.

There are many ways to set up a trust. Your estate planning attorney will start by asking you to consider basic questions about what happens to your child after you pass away. Depending on your financial situation, the issues with the other parent, and the support system available a large number of scenarios may be available. Each one of these can be carefully considered until you decide what will work best for your family. The estate plan will be created to help reach those goals and give you peace of mind that you have done your best as a single parent to shape your child’s future when the unthinkable happens. Hopefully, it will not. But having a solid plan in place is far better than the alternative. Contact the experienced estate planning attorneys today at Stouffer Legal to get started. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599 or emailing us at

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