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Parenthood and Legalities

Parenthood brings with it the responsibility of making provisions for the welfare of your children. Have you made such provisions? Are both of you covered by life insurance? While the loss of her mate's income can be devastating to a new widow and child, think of what it would cost a widower to hire someone on a full-time basis to care for the baby. When a baby is born, finances are generally tight and there may not be much, if any, money for insurance policies. Check what coverage you may have through your place of employment; evaluate your needs, then budget and decide what, if anything, you can spend on insurance. Speak to an insurance broker and compare several different plans before making any decision. Ask about Juvenile Insurance and how it can be used to insure your child's education. Resolve not to sign anything until you've given the matter some thought for at least a few days. This will prevent spending more than you can afford in response to a good sales pitch.

Now is the time to see an attorney and have wills drawn up. We believe this is a necessity at this time of your life. If either of you dies without a will, inheritance of any money or property is determined by the laws of your state. Under these laws a certain percentage of any money and property is generally given to the husband or wife and the rest placed in trust for any minor children. It may be difficult to invade this trust to obtain money needed for your children's food, clothing, education, etc., and your mate would be asked to justify any such invasion. We suggest you seek legal advice to determine what provisions should be made for your particular circumstances. Also, if at all possible, name a guardian for your children in your wills. In the event that both of you die, this will ensure that your children Will be raised by the individual of your choice. If you do not name someone, a custody fight among members of your families might ensue. The guardian should be someone in whom you both have confidence and should be consulted to determine if he or she is willing to accept this obligation. The fact that you name someone guardian does not legally oblige him or her to accept this responsibility.

Also, if you are not married, we suggest you learn the legal position of your child and the other parent should you die, regarding inheritance, guardianship, survivors' benefits under Social Security, etc. If the father dies, the mother might have to obtain a court decree stating he was in fact the father of the child before the child would be eligible to collect any benefits under the law. She most likely would be unable to collect benefits for herself, and any will he may have left bequeathing funds to her could be challenged by his relatives, who could claim that they are the rightful heirs. If the mother dies, the father may find he is faced with a legal battle over custody of the child, since the mother's relatives, particularly her parents, might claim guardianship. State laws vary. A void any possibility of legal problems later by getting legal advice now.

It is also imperative that both of you know exactly what your financial situation is - where any money, stocks, bonds, etc., are kept, to whom you owe money, etc. Trying to piece together this information after the death of a mate can be a trauma in itself. Make sure someone you trust - ideally, the person you name as guardian for your children - would be able to gather this information quickly if necessary. Keep a list of all bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies, etc., and the name and address of your attorney in a fireproof metal box in your home. Put your will in this same box, not in a safe deposit box. A safe deposit box which is jointly owned is routinely sealed when one of the owners dies and for a period of time the contents may not be easily accessible, even to someone who legitimately requires it.

Few people like to think of the death of a loved one at any time, and especially not when feeling the joy that accompanies the anticipation of the birth of a child. But these are important considerations. Death is a fact of life and, while statistics show you will probably have no need for much of what we've suggested for years to come, It s better to take care of these matters now and put them out of your mind.

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