By Robert Stitt
If there is one person who understands the legal issues associated with parenting and how things can go terribly wrong, it’s Judge Lauren Lake. Lake is the face of TV’s Paternity Court. Lake deals with real life issues with each and every case she hears. “We’re not talking about someone who broke another person’s sunglasses; these are life-altering decisions. There is a beginning, middle and end to each story. But then there’s what happens after the paternity test results. We don’t take any of this lightly. There is a responsible side to the show where we help families get on the right path,” Lake says.
Lake talked with Black Enterprise to give some advice to those couples who want to avoid pitfalls from the start. And, if things don’t turn out as planned, “Having legal matters in order will hopefully ease the blow should you one day find yourself in a family dispute with your spouse.”
Living Will. A living will specifies who your assets will go to when should you, your spouse, or both of you die. This is especially important if children are involved. Dealing with the loss of a parent or spouse is hard enough without having to deal with state probate courts.
Life Insurance. Many employers offer life insurance as part of their insurance plan. While you may not want to turn this down, you should also have a plan that is separate from your employer since most people will end up moving jobs or changing careers several times in their lives. Having your own plan outside of work ensures you have coverage regardless of where you are working. Lake suggests that you apply for life insurance before getting pregnant or in early pregnancy to avoid any issues with the insurance company.
Trusts. Trusts allow you to set aside money for your children, but you can control it even from the grave. Limits and time periods can be placed on the distribution of monies to ensure your children don’t waste all of their inheritance when they are young and foolish.
College Fund. The earlier you start saving, the more the power of compounding will be there for you and your children. Save early and save often. A 529 college savings plan offers tax-free earnings on investments as long as the money is used for education. Like trusts, parents can place controls on the money.
Prenups. According to Lake, “One of the best features of a prenup is that it can protect nearly every kind of asset a parent may want to pass to their children, versus a spouse or future spouse.”
There are a lot of things to think about when getting married and having children. While these five things may not be as fun as picking out china patterns or wallpaper for a child’s room, they are every bit, if not more, important.
Wow I wanted to post this because it is too sad. Let’s work backwards and start with the Prenups: If you go into a marriage thinking about a Prenup, just do yourself a favor and don’t get married. Because the simple truth is you are going to need it for sure. Why because you have already in your mind that you are going to get a divorce and therefore you’ll need it. What is the world coming to?
College Fund: In today’s world most people are trying to focus on the “rent or mortgage fund” right about now. It would be great to be able to put money away for your children so that when that time comes they’ll have a nets egg. But it is more realistic that you may be able to find grants and scholarships for your child when they are ready to go to college.
Trusts: Are great if you already have some money to put away. If you don’t have that kind of funds this is not a viable solution. Instead what you could do is the following:
- You could learn how to make a bunch of money
- Understand the signs of the times and focus become innovative
- Teach your children what you have learned so that they may copy your efforts
- Make sure to teach your children how to teach their children.
You can find out more in my book:
Life Insurance: This is a sad topic because I see too many families who think that they don’t want or can’t afford life insurance. This is not true. It’s about the cost of going out one night a month to cover your entire family. YOU NEED LIFE INSURANCE. An unexpected death of any family member will change your life if you are not covered. Get life insurance so you don’t have to have a car wash and a bake sale to cover burial cost.
A Living Will: Now this one is really tricky because most people just don’t think they have anything to leave after they have gone. But that’s not true. Everything you own has to go somewhere and to someone. But here is the sad truth…if you don’t leave it to someone – it goes to the government and they sell it all for pennies on the dollar to people who are not your relatives. So everything in your apartment or home needs to have a final destination when you pass on. Even your bills go to the next oldest person or your spouse. So why not designate where the rest of your stuff should go to help with paying off those bills?
There were two topics that gave me the direction to speak on people not having anything to leave your survivors. Learn how to start your own business and build it the best way you can. Even if it does not make you a millionaire, if you leave it to a loved one they might be able to turn it into something great. That’s how you fall in line with the Bible; when it states that a man should leave something for his children’s children. Own your own business! More about this a later postings.