Car seat. Check. Baby monitor. Check. You
have all the gear to take care of your baby
now, but have you looked ahead. ďWhen
you become a parent, itís so challenging just
to deal with that endless stream of bottles
and dirty diapers that itís easy to forget
about your childís long-term needs," says
Nihara Choudhri, an attorney and author of
the upcoming The New Parentsí Legal
Guide. ďBut being a good parent means
being responsible for all of your childís
needs, not just the most immediate ones."
Follow these five essential steps to make
sure your little one will always be taken care
of, no matter what happens.
GET YOUR CHILD A
SOCIAL SECURITY CARD.
This identification is needed to open a bank
account and obtain medical coverage and
other benefits for your child. The quickest,
most hassle-free way to apply for it is at the
hospital, when you fill out the form for your
childís birth certificate. Just check the box
indicating you want a Social Security card
for your baby, and provide both parentsí
Social Security numbers. If you wait until
after your baby has turned 1, youíll need to
apply at a Social Security office and provide
documentation of your childís age, identity,
and citizenship. The process can take up to
12 weeks, according to the Social Security
Administration, since they will have to veri-
fy the birth record. Once you have the card,
donít forget to stash it Ė along with other
important papers (like your will and life
insurance documents Ė read on) Ė in a secure
spot, such as a safe deposit box.
Social Security cards are free. A safe
deposit box costs as little as $15 a year.
WRITE A WILL.
About 70 percent of families
with children under 18 donít have a
will, says Brian Liu, CEO of
LegalZoom, a website that provides
affordable legal services. Thatís
shocking, considering itís the single
most important document for
ensuring that your wishes for your
childís care are honored in the event
of your death.
The three basic points to cover in a will
are: who would inherit your property (gen-
erally, you would name your spouse as the
primary beneficiary and your child as an
alternate); who would serve as your childís
guardian; and who would act as your kidís
financial manager (the person in charge of
her finances until she turns a designated age,
usually between 18 and 21). You might opt
to name two separate individuals as
guardian and trustee if, for example, your
best friend is great with kids but not cash,
and your sister is a skilled money manager.
Always get the consent of the people
named in your will, and name a backup for
each. You should also name specific individ-
uals rather than a couple, in case the couple
breaks up. Each parent should have a sepa-
rate will, but unless you have children from
a past marriage or other individual obliga-
tions (such as inherited property in your
own name), your documents can basically
mirror each otherís. Finally, make sure that
the beneficiaries named on your retirement
accounts, insurance policies, and other
assets match those in your will, so there are
no legal conflicts.
Most people can whip up a simple will
using software like Quicken WillMaker Plus
or a website like LegalZoom.com or
BuildAWill.com. Consider consulting a
lawyer, however, if you have unique con-
cerns (for instance, youíre the parent of a
special-needs child). The American Bar
Associationís website (abanet.org) provides
an online lawyer referral tool.
About $60 using software or an online
program; $300 and up if you use
BUY LIFE INSURANCE.
want to make sure even if youíre not
around, your family has enough income to
cover the cost of diapers, diplomas, and
everything in between," says Brian Ashe,
chairman of the nonprofit Life and Health
Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE).
According to the organization, the average
American adult with life insurance has cov-
erage equal to only three times his or her
annual salary, which in many cases would
be gobbled up in a flash by unpaid bills,
taxes, and other immediate expenses. Ashe
urges each parent of young children to pur-
chase insurance in the amount of ten to 15
times his or her annual income (stay-at-
home parents can calculate their income as
what child care would cost per year), and
more if they can afford it.
Every New Parent
Safeguard your babyís future by
taking these legal and financial steps.
By Hagar Scher
Reprinted by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) with permission from Redbook ©2005
About 70 percent
of families with kids under 18
donít have a will.