Why is it important to plan ahead?
It is always a good idea to prepare in advance, especially for new parents. The last thing you want to deal with in an emergency or when you are up all night with a newborn is wearily reviewing important legal documents.
Additionally, the less time you have to spend on business or personal affairs, the more time you can spend with your baby or catching up on sleep. While you cannot plan for everything, having a plan in place for important things can make all the difference when it matters most.
What can we do to protect and prepare for our child’s future?
Make an estate plan
Reviewing your estate plan, whether for the first time or to update an existing one, is an important step for the future. You can make or update your Last Will And Testament at any time before the birth or after. When you have a child, it is important to review all the documents in your estate plan annually, in order to make sure any changes to your estate are noted.
As part of your plan, you may name guardians in the event you and your spouse cannot care for your child. You can also set up a trust to cover your child’s expenses.
Purchase life insurance
It can provide you and your family peace of mind if your estate plan includes a life insurance policy. Life insurance comes in multiple forms and many families do not consider it until a child’s imminent birth. But life insurance is an essential safeguard for families at every stage. It provides a payout to beneficiaries, like a spouse or child, in the event of the insured person’s unexpected death.
Generally, there are two types of policy— term and whole. Estate planners and financial advisors can develop a policy that is the best fit for your entire family and budget. Some forms of life insurance may be considered an investment.
Apply for a birth certificate
When your child is born, you will fill out a birth registration form. You can apply for a Social Security number at the same time. If for some reason you miss the opportunity at the hospital, you can complete these forms at your local public health department. If you misplace the birth certificate and want to obtain a copy, you can send a Birth Certificate Request Letter to the vital records office in the birth state.
Add your child to your health insurance
Your child is not automatically added to your health insurance. If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, check with your employer’s HR department or your carrier to learn about the process.
If you have health insurance through a state exchange, your enrollment materials will provide guidance. In either case, you may have a new premium when you add a child to the plan.
Many hospitals automatically bill the delivery to the birth mother’s insurance. If you want the bill assigned to the spouse’s insurance, alert your insurer and the billing departments in advance.
Child Care Authorization
When it is time to return to work after your new baby arrives, or you simply need help with child care, a Child Care Authorization helps your relatives or a nanny care for your child. A Child Care Authorization may simply direct a daycare or school to release your child to the named caregiver, and it may also include more authority to make legal or medical decisions if you cannot be present.
Start saving for college
College costs are on the rise. The sooner you can start saving, the better. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to plan for your child’s future. A popular choice is a 529 plan. There is no federal tax deduction upfront for contributing to a 529 plan, but the money grows tax-free and, unlike retirement plans, withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses are tax-free as well.
Some states offer a tax deduction for upfront contributions to 529 plans. You can make an Education Cost Worksheet to determine a savings target. And have no fear. If your child gets a scholarship and does not need the savings for college, another family member can be assigned as the 529 plan beneficiary.
Take advantage of tax breaks
There are tax credits and deductions related to children. You can file for a dependency exemption beginning with the tax year your child is born, however the credit phases out for higher earners. There is also a child tax credit for single filers who earn up to $240,000 and married filers who earn up to $440,000.
When should new parents start their family legal planning?
Most new parents start planning months before their child is born. In addition to preparing a nursery, or financial planning, there is a lot to do. As expectant parents, you may want a documented Birth Plan for the hospital, or a Hospital Visitation Authorization to make sure certain visitors you want are allowed. If your soon-to-be co-parent is not your spouse, a Parenting Plan can be critical to set up at the outset so expectations are clear.
The above list is a good place to start before the birth to help you and your growing family live life to its fullest. After all, after your new baby is born, finding the time to check those items off the list will not get any easier.
If you have more questions about what documents to prepare when a new addition arrives to your family, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.