Regardless of how much or how little money or property a single mother has, she still has an estate to manage. A person's estate comprises all money, personal property and real property she owns at the time of death. As such, everyone can benefit from estate planning. A single mother may establish a trust to ensure that her children are cared for after her death. The trust can both appoint a guardian for the children and provide financial assistance for them.
Make an inventory of all accounts--bank accounts, stock accounts, retirement accounts and any other financial account--personal property and real property. Create a plan for what you would like to do with each individual item after your death.
Transfer all large pieces of property, such as financial accounts and real property, to your trust. For instance, bank accounts should no longer be in your name, but rather be in trust for your name. You will still have access to all of your money as you did before.
Create a living trust document that identifies all of your large pieces of property and expresses your wishes with regard to those pieces of property. Your wishes do not have to be complete disbursements of your property. Rather, you could specify that the interest paid on a sum of money in a bank account be used for the benefit of a child until that child reaches 25 years of age, at which point the trust will divest the money entirely to the child. Trusts have flexibility, and you can retain control over how the money may be used and when the beneficiary may access the funds.
Identify yourself as the trustee of your trust during your lifetime. This gives you the ability to manage the trust's property for your own purposes while you are alive. Nominate two individuals--one as trustee and one as backup trustee--to serve after you pass away. These individuals should be people that you trust and who have agreed to serve as your estate's trustee.
Identify two individuals--one as guardian and one as backup guardian--for your children if you still have minor children. These individuals will not have access to the funds of your trust like your trustee does, but they have the authority to care for and raise your children.
Create a pour-over will, which is a will designed to transfer any property not specifically named in the trust to the trust at your death. The pour-over will takes care of small personal property such as clothing and any other property you obtain after you draft your trust. Specify in the will that all property should go to your trust at your death and that your trust contains disbursement instructions for the property.
Execute your trust and will, following the laws of your state. For instance, some states require that you sign both documents in the presence of two disinterested witnesses. A disinterested witness is one who is not named in the will or trust. Other states' requirements are less stringent.
Provide a copy of the will and trust to your trustee, backup trustee, guardian and backup guardian. Banks or other parties who hold property or accounts for you may also request a copy of the trust. Retain the original in a safe place that your trustee knows about and will have access to at your death.
Estate planning is a very complex area of law with a number of pitfalls that may completely invalidate your entire estate plan. Always consult with a competent estate planning attorney before attempting to draft your trust or will yourself.