Getting legally prepared for parenthood Working with a lawyer when you are having a baby

So, you’re expecting. Congratulations! A lawyer can help with a few things to prepare for parenthood in the long haul.

Some documents you may want to prepare include:

A Co-Parenting Agreement. Upon separation or divorce, plan for child custody, access and guardianship, and child support payments. If you can negotiate reasonable terms while you still want to be together, you may avoid the acrimony that comes with litigation.

A Will. A will estimates what your assets and responsibilities will look like on your date of death. Amend any old wills to include your children as heirs and to provide for custody, access, and guardianship if you die before you can raise them.

A Power of Attorney. Consider appointing someone to act on your behalf in case you fall ill and cannot manage your daily finances. This person should be a trusted friend or family member (not a lawyer).

A standard power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf while you are mentally competent to supervise. An enduring power of attorney allows someone to pay bills and manage assets on your behalf even if you sustain a head injury and cannot supervise your attorney.

DO NOT CIRCULATE THIS DOCUMENT. It’s confidential and should only be released to your attorney when needed. Keep it in a safety deposit box, with instructions to release it only upon receipt of a letter from you or upon proof of incapacity from your doctor.

A Healthcare Directive. This document can appoint a guardian to make healthcare choices on your behalf and it can contain directions to be followed when medically appropriate. I prefer to appoint a healthcare representative without tying that person’s hands by dictating choices you may disagree with. While it is helpful to have detailed conversations with this person about the kind of health choices you want made, if you are certain that this person will respect your wishes, then trust this person. If you do not trust this person to respect your wishes, appoint someone else. Choose an alternate representative if your first choice is unavailable when decisions require immediate action.

This is not a private document. You need this document to provide speed and certainty in your life-changing healthcare decisions. Store a copy in your doctor’s file, provide a copy to your healthcare representatives, and register it with the office of the Public Guardian and Trustee.

Interim Guardianship and Support. A will is only opened and read when you die, so don’t appoint an interim guardian for your children in your will. That is where you appoint a permanent guardian. If you have a co-parenting agreement, put your preference of interim guardian there, otherwise create a separate document to arrange for guardianship of your children if you are incapable of parenting. Your co-parent can be your first choice of guardian, but you should agree on an alternate. Spouses often travel together and are likely to be in the same car accident. In case you are both injured, have an alternate in place for both of you; it should be the same person.

Parenting a child is a delightful experience if you can get basic worries out of the way before your baby arrives. Midnight feedings may keep you up, but legal arrangements should not.

The general information offered here is not intended to be legal advice. If you need a lawyer and cannot afford one, you may qualify for legal aid, or you may be able to access a free half-hour consultation through Edmonton Community Legal Centre.

Featured Image: Working with a lawyer can help you sort out a few things for your family. | Pixabay

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