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A Checklist: Preparing for the Worst

(Courtesy of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Here is a checklist for parents and others planning for the unthinkable: What will happen to their youngsters and their property if they die?

First, pick the person you trust most to be the guardian of your children and their future assets, and who will be there for the long term and who shares your values. This may not be your current romantic interest or a close blood relative.

You can make one person responsible for raising your child and another for your money.

Make sure your guardian choice will accept the responsibility before making the designation. Divorced couples should make the guardian decision together — and consider naming each other, as the courts would be likely to award one of them guardianship anyway should they petition for it.

Give your guardian choice a certified copy of your will, or tell them where you have stored yours. Pick an attorney who is board-certified in estates and wills, meaning they have received advanced training. Lawyers must have a certification to claim they "specialize" in any area, according to Florida Bar rules.

Assets for children can be held in trusts with specific requirements. For example: $40,000 could be left to a child but only available after he or she graduates from college.

Make your decisions about guardians, and specific asset distributions, before you get to the attorney's office. This will save you using billable hours haggling over these choices.

Disabled minor and adult children require special-needs trusts, as an inheritance could put them over the asset limits for state and federal assistance.

When you make your will, also buy life insurance that will replace your income and support your children. Get a policy big enough to fund major future expenses, like college, if they aren't covered under other savings.

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