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Single Parent's Guide to Estate Planning

Single Parent's Guide to Estate Planning

In today’s modern family, it’s common for parents to find themselves single-handedly caring for their family.  Creating at least a basic estate plan can be an important step to protecting your loved ones. Whether you are divorced or have never been married, Gevurtz Menashe’s estate planning attorneys can help ensure your family is cared for if something should happen to you. Here are a few of the basic estate planning tools we recommend for single parents or those who may be going through the divorce process:


A simple will is the safety net for the children of single parents. Most importantly, in their will, single parents can nominate a guardian to make sure that the right person takes care of their children if anything happens unexpectedly.  In addition to nominating a guardian, a parent can include provisions in their will to make sure their children’s inheritance is used for the most important expenses, health and education, and direct who will manage the money on their children’s behalf.  Without a will, a court decides who will manage the children’s inheritance until they are 18, at which time the children receive it without any guidance or restrictions.  Most 18-year-olds do not have enough knowledge or experience to properly manage an inheritance of any size.  Having a will is an essential tool for single parents to make sure their children are supported and protected.

Power of Attorney and Advance Directive

Although sometimes they are overlooked, a Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive are critical elements of a basic estate plan. A Power of Attorney nominates a person to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.   If you are sick and not able to check your mail or pay your bills, your “Agent” has legal authority to help you.  Similarly, an Advance Directive nominates the person responsible for making decisions health care decisions in the event you are not able to do so yourself.  If you do not nominate someone to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated, your loved ones may have to seek expensive court orders just to help you or take care of your children, which can be easily avoided by executing a Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive.

Revocable Living Trust

You might also consider a Revocable Living Trust. Also known as a “living will”, a Revocable Living Trust is a private document that allows you to provide for your children and make sure their inheritance is managed by a responsible person and used for their most important needs.
Revocable Living Trusts can also help your loved ones avoid the costs and headache of probate after you pass away. Probate is the process of distributing your property to your heirs through the court system.  Through a revocable living trust, the process is private and streamlined so your beneficiaries are able to receive your property without going through a lengthy and expensive court process.

Don’t Forget to Update Regularly

One of the most common mistakes in estate planning is not regularly updating an existing estate plan.  Major events in your life, such as marriage or having another child, can drastically change your estate plan.  The laws regarding estate planning and taxes also change and could impact your estate plan without you knowing it.  You should review your estate plan with an attorney every few years to ensure that you and your family are protected in case of an emergency.
We understand that being a single parent is busy enough. Don’t let your estate planning worries add to everything else on your plate – we can help.  

While this is intended to provide some guidance on the various estate planning tools, this is not intended to provide legal advice. If you’re interested in learning more about how estate planning affects your life, call 503-227-1515 or contact us to set up an appointment with an experienced Estate Planning attorney.

Taylor S. Kittell is an Associate and Estate Planning Attorney at Gevurtz Menashe. She is a member of the Oregon and Washington state bars and focuses her practice exclusively on estate planning issues including wills and revocable trusts, estate and gift taxes, probate administration, asset protection planning, and beneficiary and trustee representation.