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Liane and Martijn Tel of Austin, Texas delivered their first baby, Sabine Lynn, during the first week of January. Their baby was born with a full head of dark hair and a sweet disposition. Even the nurses said so, according to her grandparents.

As every grandparent knows, the joys of first-time parenthood are incomparable. But so is the growing sense of responsibility. Like many young couples, Liane and Martijn moved from “me” to “we” to, now, “us” – a family of three - in just a few years.

Some of the changes are obvious: A newborn needs constant care. Some are less so, such as the need to make important financial and estate-planning decisions. Robert Pagliarini, a certified financial planner in Los Angeles, says the best time to begin this planning is before the baby is born.

“I always advise my clients - who are expecting - to take advantage of the time they have before the baby is born,” says Pagliarini, who has been quoted on CNN Financial News, NPR, Market Watch, MSNBC and in the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and The Chicago Tribune. “This is really the time to handle key issues, like estate planning. Once the baby comes, the way in which you once ordered your life changes. And the free time that you once had, you really won’t have anymore.”

He should know. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have a newborn at home as well. They made a list of items to address prior to the baby’s arrival in October. First and foremost was estate-planning. They met with a lawyer to ensure everything was done right.

Expect your attorney to send you questions ahead of time - important questions that you should discuss with your spouse prior to the meeting. For example, who should assume custody of your child in the event something happens? This may be an easy, or a very difficult decision. You will have others, as well. When you visit your lawyer, have your answers ready. This saves time and money. You can get a will done for as little as $500.

Some other key issues to consider:

  • Gerber Life College Plan: The Gerber Life College an endowment life insurance policy that provides a guaranteed benefit payment after a certain number of years. To learn more about it, click here.
  • Life insurance: Get life insurance for the main breadwinner, as well as the other spouse, says Pagliarini. “Currently, I’m the primary breadwinner. However, if my wife were to pass away, I would take time off, without a doubt. I wouldn’t be compensated for that, and so I’d definitely want to have a cushion. When I talk with my clients, I recommend the same thing.”
  • Disability insurance: Your expenses will only grow after the baby arrives and you must be covered. Check and see if you have a group plan through work. Expect, however, that it may not be enough. Consider private policies as well.
  • Education Savings Account: Pagliarini recommends a 529 College Savings Plan. “You put money aside, and it grows tax-free - for college. They also have educational IRAs. If you are considering private primary and secondary schools, the Education IRA may be wise. Otherwise, I’d stay with the 529.”
  • General Savings: By the time your baby arrives, you should have six months of expenses saved. You will have additional expenses around the baby’s arrival, so this is definitely something to do early. Try to eliminate all debt, aside from your mortgage.
  • Create an “I Love You” Book: Every family should have one, says David Ragan, a financial planning specialist in Texas. “This is a binder or notebook that lists all bank accounts, credit cards, liabilities, assets, doctors, location of wills, and other information for the surviving spouse.”

Finally, consider life insurance for your baby. With the Gerber Life Grow-Up Plan, premiums will stay the same throughout his or her life, but the coverage automatically doubles during age 18.

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