Of all the different scenarios that women face when it comes to  life insurance, perhaps that of the single mother is the trickiest. There is an obvious need. What single parent would not have some fear for their children’s future, knowing that minus them and their income, that future is really up in the air?

There are more issues here than just how much money to leave behind. Unlike a marriage or a business partnership, the life insurance benefit in this instance is for the benefit of minor children. Since no one in their right mind is going to leave a large life insurance settlement to a minor child, there has to be a plan in place.

So, let’s set the life insurance aside for a minute. What plan do you have in place for the guardianship of your children if something happens to you? Is there an ex-husband in the picture that would assume custody? Would the children go to live with a relative, say a brother of sister? Do you have a trust set up that will ensure that your wishes for how the money is to be used are followed, or do you trust your proposed guardian to do the right things?

I have worked with some very complicated single mom issues. Probably the toughest is the situation where the guardianship is not in question, but the trust in the guardian to manage a life insurance proceed is definitely in question.

It is fairly common that the ex-husband is the default custodian. As long as you can trust that your wishes will be carried out, making your ex-husband the beneficiary can be workable. If you have any reason to believe that the benefit to your children might be at risk because you left the money in the wrong hands, some other arrangement should be looked at.

One option is a life insurance trust, although if income is limited, the expense of setting up a trust may not be the best option. Another option to put the money into trusted hands might be the leave it to a trusted relative. This is accomplished with a beneficiary designation that goes something like, Jane Smith, as custodian for funds for minor children, Joseph Jones and Samantha Jones.

Then there is the issue of life insurance. My recommendation if your children are fairly close in age is the get the maximum amount of term insurance with a term length that will take your youngest to age 22. If there is a fairly large spread in age, consider two policies and stagger the term lengths. Keep budget in mind. Make sure that whatever you do, it will weather tight financial times.

Bottom line. The need is huge. You simply can’t leave children behind and expect someone else to