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Safe and Secure

It's instinctual for a parent to shield her child from imminent danger, but you should also safeguard your baby's future. The best way to do that is to create three key documents that will protect him no matter what happens to you. "It's one of the hardest things to face," says Elissa Buie, president of the Financial Planning Group in Falls Church, VA. "But make sure that if an emergency happens, your family can still live the life you intended for them."

1. A will that names guardians

"Naming a guardian who'll have responsibility for raising your child is the single most important part of your will," says Steven Chill, a New York City trusts and estates lawyer with Golenbock, Eiseman, Assor, Bell & Peskoe. Choose someone who shares your goals and values, especially when it comes to education and religion. Interview potential guardians first, and be sure their spouse is involved. You should also choose backup (secondary) guardians, as well as someone separate to manage your child's finances while he's a minor.

2. A life insurance policy

If something happens to you, you'll want to know that your baby will be financially secure until he's old enough to be on his own, and life insurance can help. John Wasik, author of The Kitchen-Table Investor, suggests you buy term insurance with fixed premiums and no benefit except upon death. When assessing how much you'll need, take into account both the obvious expenses (food, shelter, taxes) and the less immediate ones (college tuition, for example).

3. A living will

In the event you're incapacitated, this document will empower someone you love (rather than the state) to make medical decisions on your behalf, and spell out what artificial life-support measures you want taken, giving clear-cut instructions to a family member during a crisis. It's one of the most caring things you can do for the ones you love.

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