Pregnancy Week 35: The Deets on All That Grown-Up Paperwork That Comes With Baby

Pregnant woman writing


June 12, 2024 at 2:46PM UTC
A will? Morbid. Term life insurance? Almost as bad.  Health insurance? Retirement beneficiaries? Flex spending account update?
Nobody ever likes to do paperwork, but welcome to your new reality. There’s a good amount of this kind of practical stuff to do when you’ve got a baby on the way. So this week we’ve focused on giving you a short checklist and some, um, encouragement to get some of it under wraps while you’re waiting for baby to arrive.
We’ve broken down the types of paperwork you need to be aware of:

Documents related to birth and maternity leave:

  • FMLA forms (if applicable).
  • Short-term disability forms (different ones depending on whether you will be using your state, employer or private insurer’s policies).
  • Doctor’s notes (mostly related to short-term disability documentation).
  • Your baby’s birth certificate: every state government has different procedures but you should order one or inquire as to how to obtain one.
  • Will you need to travel with your baby? Be sure to apply for a passport once you have a birth certificate.

Documents related to the baby’s benefits:

  • Get a copy of your health care plan and ask about the enrollment window for new babies (typically most insurers allow a 30 day post-birth, catch-up period).
  • Consider expanding the amount you put into your annual Health Savings plan, if you have one. This money is pre-tax and reserved for healthcare expenses. Of course, if you don’t use it, you lose it. But chances are that you should budget a bit more now that you’ll be visiting the pediatrician’s office more regularly.
  • Your employer may also offer a Dependent Flex Spending account which is also a tax-free way to spend money on your child, more generally.
  • Read the benefits and cost coverages associated with childbirth so you aren’t in for any nasty surprises.
  • Decide whether you want your baby to be listed as a retirement account beneficiary if you have a 401(k) or Roth IRA and find out what it takes to add (or replace your current beneficiary) with the baby.

Documents Related to your baby’s future, finances and emergencies:

  • Your baby’s social security number is required if you’re going to claim a dependent on your tax returns. Many hospitals issue you cards you can send into the Social Security Administration to request the form.
  • Decide whether you’re going to open a savings account for your child. This can be a normal account in your child’s name or there are special accounts like a 529 plan for future college costs that is tax advantaged.
  • A will. Yes, we know... but what if you and your spouse get hit by a bus? Do you know the default rules for guardianship in your state? While this is a difficult document to discuss, it’s important to plan for unlikely events now that you have a dependent.
  • Relatedly, many new parents decide to take out life insurance for themselves. There are different kinds of life insurance offerings. “Term” life insurance is probably the most common kind, since it protects your loved ones if you pass away during a specific amount of time (e.g. your working, income-generating years). Other policies include more of an investment component, so the best way to make sure you’re picking the right one is to consult a couple insurance companies for information about their products and get a few quotes.
Some of these things can only be done once the baby has arrived (e.g. getting a passport or putting the baby on your health care plan). However, you can lay the groundwork for some of these paperwork items now and get prepared. For starters, you can start looking at life insurance options or familiarizing yourself with the fine print of your health care plan.
While you don’t have to do it all now, trust us: you won’t regret getting a lot of this drudgery out of the way before the baby arrives. Whether you do the rest during maternity leave or wait until you get back to the sanity of an adult workspace is up to you (and depends on how long your parental leave is). But getting yourself organized now will help!

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