If you are a parent, there are some important issues that your estate plan should address.
For LGBT individuals and their families, it can be wise to take extra care with estate plans when defining who is a parent and who is not. This is especially important with regard to children who were born or adopted before marriage.
If you are raising a child but are not a birth parent or biological parent, talk to an attorney in your state about what avenues might be available for establishing and protecting your legal status as a parent. Sometimes this is done via adoption, but there are also other laws that might define who has the legal rights and responsibilities of a parent.
It can also be important to clarify your intentions relating to inheritance when a spouse or partner has minor or adult children from a prior relationship.
Keep in mind that you can proactively include a child in your estate plan whether you are a legally recognized parent or not. But a legally recognized parent-child relationship can also be desirable.
In some cases, you may also wish to clarify that certain individuals are not to be regarded as a parent for purposes of your estate plan. For example, it might be appropriate to specify that a birth surrogate, or donor of genetic material, is not to be considered as a parent for purposes of determining inheritance or family relationships.
If a couple has stored, or plans to store, genetic material, they should talk to their attorney about whether their estate planning documents, or some other written agreement, should address the material's use and disposition.
Be sure to work closely with an attorney in your state to find out what is appropriate for your personal situation.
If your child is a minor (under age 18), be sure to name a guardian. A guardian is the person who would have custody of a child if there are no surviving parents. The only way to designate a guardian is in your will. So having a will is a "must" for every parent with young children.
If assets are left to a minor child, it may be wise to make provisions to leave assets in trust. This allows you to designate a trustee, give specific instructions about how the trust will be managed, and decide how long the assets will remain in trust. If you leave assets to a minor child and do not create a trust, the assets will be placed in a guardianship estate under supervision of the probate court. Guardianships terminate when a child reaches the age of majority (18 years in most states). In most cases, it is preferable to create a trust to assure that your own wishes are carried out, instead of relying on default rules under state law.
Our brief explanations here only scratch the surface of many deep and complex issues. So it's especially important that you work with a qualified attorney. And it is also beneficial to have your estate plan reviewed and updated regularly to assure that your plan is keeping pace with changes in state and federal laws as they evolve.