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What are the most important legal and financial steps for new parents in the US? For example, establishing a will, purchasing life insurance, setting up a college fund, etc...

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As this can differ from nation to nation, based on legalities and whatever legal system they have in place, if you could specify your location (even something as general as North America) that would help significantly. :) – Aarthi Nov 14 '11 at 19:15
a tricky question; in England you must "register the birth" within 42 days, by law. – DanBeale Nov 14 '11 at 22:22
I've updated the question - I am in the US. – SomeGuy Nov 15 '11 at 1:46
Vote to close? I think the question is too broad. It needs to be split in two; one specifically for the legal considerations (and even that could possibly be too localized!), and one for financial considerations that are possibly already adequately covered here. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 15 '11 at 8:14
@SomeGuy, would you consider splitting your question into two? One for legal, one for financial aspects. This was discussed a little in the chat. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 15 '11 at 14:15

Here is a list based on our experiences, and what I was able to research:


  • Apply for (and order copies of) birth certificate
  • Apply for social security card
  • Apply for passport (if desired)


  • Update your will:
    • Name a guardian for your child
    • Designate what your child should inherit, and how that money should be used (if you don't specify how much to set aside for education, etc., the courts will)
    • Name a trustee for your child's finances
  • Prepare a Caregiver Affidavit (this names someone to care for your child if you are incapacitated temporarily)
  • Prepare a Durable Power of Attorney over Finances (this allows someone to manage your finances if you are unable)

Financial / Medical

  • College / education savings
  • Life insurance for yourself (if desired)
  • Set your bank accounts to be payable on death to your chosen guardians
  • Add your child to your health insurance (if vision and dental plans are separate, they can usually wait until the child is 6 months or a year old)
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In the countries I'm familiar with, parents only need to make legal arrangements (will etc.) if they want to deviate from the standard, because the laws contain sensible standards. So check the laws before you make expensive documents. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 15 '11 at 8:18
I have never gone through this first hand, but I've read that the court charges fees to your estate for having to divy up your stuff for you-- fees that would probably cost more than writing a will. – Sarato Nov 16 '11 at 3:20

Life Insurance. You have someone (your child) now who is completely and solely dependent upon you to take care of them. If something unfortunate were to happen and you were no longer there to provide for them, that would be tragic. Life insurance, like any other insurance, is a necessary evil for parents of young children. Tern life insurance is typically quite affordable in the long run and provides a financial security blanket.

I also agree with all of @Sarato's comments regarding Legal items.

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