The Importance of Estate Planning for Single Parents

July 25, 2023
Erin Calpin, Esq.

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of ensuring the financial security and well-being of one's loved ones, and it becomes even more vital for single parents. As a single parent, you bear the sole responsibility of providing for your children and safeguarding their future. By engaging in thoughtful estate planning, you can establish a comprehensive framework that protects your assets, designates guardianship for your children, and outlines your wishes for their care and financial stability. This proactive approach empowers single parents to make informed decisions and establish a solid foundation to support their children's needs, even in unforeseen circumstances. In this blog, we will delve into the important considerations and strategies involved in estate planning for single parents, allowing you to navigate this critical process with confidence and peace of mind.

What Estate Planning Documents Do Single Parents Need?

Single parents, like any other individuals, require specific estate planning documents to ensure their wishes are carried out and their children's needs are met. Here are some essential estate planning documents that single parents should consider:

1. Will: A will is a fundamental document that outlines how you want your assets to be distributed upon your death. As a single parent, a will allows you to designate a guardian for your children, ensuring they are cared for by someone you trust. It also enables you to specify how your assets should be managed for the benefit of your children, such as establishing a trust.

2. Trust: Creating a trust can be particularly beneficial for single parents. A trust allows you to set aside assets for your children's future needs and designate a trustee to manage those assets on their behalf. By utilizing a trust, you can provide financial stability, outline specific conditions for asset distribution, and even stipulate how the funds should be used, such as education expenses or medical needs.

3. Power of Attorney: A power of attorney grants someone the legal authority to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. As a single parent, it is crucial to have a trusted individual appointed as your power of attorney to manage your financial matters and ensure your children's welfare is protected.

4. Healthcare Proxy: A healthcare proxy, also known as a medical power of attorney, allows you to appoint a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It is essential to select a responsible individual who understands your values and preferences regarding medical treatments and can advocate for your children's well-being.

5. Guardianship Designation: Alongside a will, it is crucial to have a separate guardianship designation document that explicitly states your choice of guardian for your children. This document carries significant weight in determining who will assume custody and responsibility for your children if you pass away or become incapacitated.

What Happens if a Single Parent Dies Without an Estate Plan?

If a single parent dies without an estate plan in place, the legal process known as intestate succession takes effect. Intestate succession refers to the distribution of assets and property according to the laws of the state where the parent resided. The specific outcomes may vary depending on the jurisdiction, but here are some general consequences of dying without an estate plan as a single parent:

1. Guardianship Determination: Without a designated guardian in a will or separate guardianship designation, the court will decide who will assume custody of the children. The court's decision may not align with the parent's wishes, and family members may need to go through legal proceedings to establish guardianship.

2. Asset Distribution: In the absence of a will or trust, state laws will determine how the parent's assets and property are distributed. Typically, the assets will be distributed to the surviving children equally. If the children are minors, the court may appoint a custodian or require the funds to be held in a restricted account until they reach legal age, potentially causing delays and additional legal complications.

3. Probate Process: Without an estate plan, the probate process becomes necessary to settle the parent's estate. Probate is a court-supervised process of validating the will (if any), identifying and appraising assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets. Probate can be time-consuming, expensive, and subject to public scrutiny, potentially causing delays and disputes among family members.

4. Uncertain Financial Future: The lack of an estate plan can leave the surviving children's financial future uncertain. There may be no immediate access to funds or clear instructions on how to manage the parent's assets. The court may appoint a guardian or conservator to oversee the children's financial affairs, which might not align with the parent's wishes or the best interests of the children.

5. Increased Costs and Conflict: Without an estate plan, legal fees, court costs, and administrative expenses may increase, as the process of settling the estate becomes more complex. Disputes among family members may arise, leading to additional emotional stress and financial strain.

By having a well-thought-out estate plan in place, single parents can ensure their wishes are respected, their children are cared for by trusted individuals, and their assets are distributed according to their preferences.

If you are a single parent and ready to make an estate plan, we encourage you to get in touch with BMC today! Our experienced estate planning attorneys will provide you with the insight and guidance that you need to ensure that the terms of the estate follow your wishes.


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Borenstein, McConnell & Calpin, P.C. is a Wills & Estate Planning law firm serving Central and Northern New Jersey, as well as New York City. We strive not only to give you a great client experience, but to become your trusted adviser for life. To reach Alec, please send an email to

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