This is a guest blog written by Adam, the co-founder of Briefly. Briefly is an online resource that helps simplify your legal and financial to-do list as a new parent. They empower you to get your questions answered, plan for the future, and get back to the good part, being a parent.
As expecting parents, you are overwhelmed with decision making; from selecting a name to picking out the safest car seat to nursery decor, the list goes on. But those are the more fun decisions we make as new parents. For some of us, there are tougher choices to make around medical options or work situations. You never know what life will throw at you, but the antidote to anxiety is preparedness. The best way to protect your family is to know what your options are.
Before our first child was born, my wife and I faced a handful of legal issues. Suddenly, we needed an estate plan, knowledge of my options for parental leave (as the head of a small non-profit organization), to establish dual citizenship in two countries (as my wife is English), learn how to handle bad experiences with medical professionals, and understand our rights for medical decision making. We even got a $9,000 bill for a routine test. All fairly normal stuff, but I was shocked at how hard it was to find basic, up-to-date information about legal issues specific to new and expecting parents.
I thought, “I’m a lawyer and I can’t access this information - it must be impossible for everyone else.” I started Briefly after my first son, Jude, was born to solve this problem - to simplify legal issues for parents and help them know what they don’t know.
Become An Advocate For Your Family And Be Proactive
The first step towards legal and financial health is to learn to become an advocate for yourself and your family. This means getting informed, knowing your rights (and responsibilities), and building a network of professional and personal support.
- Start learning about key legal issues - like family leave, employment law, child care, medical decision-making - and many more!
- Create a legal priorities list.
- Identify a network of professionals that you trust - ideally, an estate planning lawyer and a financial advisor.
Understand Your Rights While Pregnant Or Breastfeeding In The Workplace
In 2021, pregnant women and new parents have a lot of rights in the workplace. If you know your rights and communicate them clearly to bosses and managers, you can maximize the chances that they will be respected.
- Read your employers’ parental leave policy and get a basic understanding of the Family and Medical Leave Act and your state’s family leave laws, to make that policy is compliant with the law.
- Most pregnant women and moms are entitled to “reasonable accommodations” in their workplace – small changes to help them work safely and comfortably while pregnant; talk to your manager or boss about what accommodations you might need.
- If you are fired, deprived of work opportunities, or treated differently because you are pregnant or a caregiver, reach out to an employment lawyer. Moms have a right to be free from discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on pregnancy.
Understand Wills & Estate Plans And Why Every Parent Needs One
Every family with kids needs a will. Why? Because a will is the only way to legally designate a guardian for your children if you (and the child’s other parent) pass away. An estate plan is more than just a will. It allows you to determine where your assets go when you pass away, but it also helps protect your decedents from creditors, cuts down on taxes, gives you control over medical decisions, helps you pay for long-term care – and generally saves your family a lot of headaches.
- Talk to your partner or your child’s other parent about some key decisions - who should be your child’s guardian; who should make medical or financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated; and who should manage your affairs after you pass away.
- Before you even get a lawyer, you can update your beneficiary designations and buy a simple term life insurance policy.
Learn How To Optimize Your Health Insurance
It seems like everyone is at least a little confused about how health insurance works– sometimes even the experts. Lots of lingo, little transparency, and an ever-changing legal landscape create a lot of complexity. Having a child makes insurance more expensive, making it that much more important to optimize.
- Understand your current insurance - what's the deductible, coinsurance/copayments, and out-of-pocket maximum; how extensive is the network; does it cover everything you need? More than you need?
- Determine if your child qualifies for a CHIP plan - these are subsidized (and often excellent) health plans for children. Eligibility is different in each state - but lots of parents may qualify, especially if your family income lowers due to a parent staying home.
- Do some math to determine if your plan is optimized for your family. You’ll need to know your current insurance info, your income and tax bracket, and an estimate of your medical expenses. You can use an online calculator like this one.
Understand Child Care Options: Your Rights And Responsibilities
Getting child care for your kids can be surprisingly complicated from a legal standpoint. Understanding child care law can help you avoid some rare but serious legal issues, and help you improve the quality of your family’s child care situation.
- If you are hiring nannies or babysitters, you become their employers. This means that you need to withhold income tax and pay the FICA taxes for them; it also means you need to comply with labor laws – like the minimum wage, overtime, and even workplace safety rules. Sign up for a “nanny payroll service,” to have this taken care of for you (there are expensive, full-service options, and cheaper, DIY, options).
- If you are sending your kids to preschool or daycare, you can easily research your state’s daycare center regulations and look up health, safety, and discipline records for every licensed daycare center in the country.
While it may seem daunting at first, prioritizing tasks based on your immediate needs is the best way to tackle these must-dos before having kids. No one wants to think about potentially life ending or life altering scenarios, but if you make the tough discussions now, it will make a very difficult time a little less upending for you, your partner, your children and extended family. And by understanding your family’s legal rights beforehand, you can save yourselves from the hardships and heartaches of entering into a sticky situation. Getting these necessary ducks in a row will give you the peace of mind to fully enjoy time with your new family!