Most pregnancies and births go well without serious complications and with especially delightful outcomes. But from an estate planning perspective, some potential problems that can arise merit that a pregnant woman have a discussion with an estate planning attorney to understand steps that can be taken to put her affairs in order in case of an unexpected development such as:
- Medical problems in pregnancy or during birth that cause the mother to lose her capacity to communicate her treatment wishes
- Medical incapacity that could trigger the need for someone to take care of her financial affairs
- In extreme cases, the death of a mother in pregnancy or birth, which instigates questions of how her property will be distributed and who will raise her child or children
The solutions to these problems may vary from mother to mother depending on family circumstances. If she is married, certain Colorado laws will impact estate planning. If she’s unmarried but is living in partnership with the other parent, different estate planning approaches would be appropriate. Yet another situation may be the mom who is not in a relationship with the other parent, whether separated, divorced, estranged, friendly or in conflict. Or, the mother may have used assisted reproductive technology without another parent in the picture. Each of these scenarios will provide impetus for a unique estate plan.
In a thoughtful article on this topic on Above the Law, the author wisely suggests that a mother-to-be consider at least a will, financial power of attorney and advance medical directives. Here are some of the reasons to do so:
- Will: In the event of an untimely death, the mother will have dictated who she wants to inherit her money, investments, real estate and personal property. This is important because the choices she will have made may not be the same ones that state law would dictate had she died without a will. Very importantly, the mother can name in her will who she would choose to be her child’s (or children’s) guardian.
- Financial power of attorney: This is a document that transfers the power to manage the person’s affairs to another adult in case of incapacity. For example, should the mother have a serious medical problem that leaves her unable to handle her personal business, the appointed agent can access the mother’s money to pay her bills, support her family and meet other responsibilities. In addition, the agent can apply for public benefits on behalf of the mother, if necessary.
- Advance medical directives: The mother-to-be can name a health care agent to make medical decisions for her should she become incapacitated. The mother can also write a living will to direct in detail what medical treatment she would want or not want should she face end-of-life medical decisions.
Any Colorado parent-to-be with questions about unique estate planning considerations should have this discussion with an experienced lawyer.