By Sarah Stewart Legal Group
As parents, our plates are constantly full. Not only are we trying to take care of our own lives, pay the bills, keep up with the laundry, keep the household in order, and make sure food is on the table, but we also have young lives to worry about. There may be daycare or school, activity schedules, day-to-day care and the most important part, doing our best just to raise our children to be good human beings.
Just looking at that list exhausts me. Doesn’t it you?
Since getting through each day can be a struggle in itself, it’s no surprise that less than 50% of the U.S. population-not just young families- have no estate plan in place. We all have better things to do, right?
The reality is, you really don’t. Do you know what will happen to your children if you die unexpectedly? Most people don’t know. So, read on to find out!
If something were to happen to you and your spouse before your children are 18, someone would have to take over the care of your children. That could be the state, but most of us hope it’s not. Or, that could be someone you know and trust that you name in your estate plan to care for them.
The Court process someone, who is usually not a parent, of a child goes through to gain custody of a child is called Guardianship.
If you are a parent of a child with Special Needs, you also need to become familiar with this term. Because, if a child becomes an adult who cannot care for his or herself, then, even if you are the parent of that person, once the child with Special Needs turns 18, you will need a Guardianship to continue to manage your child’s care, assets, and resources.
Guardianship requires that the person asking for Guardianship complete a background check, file a Petition with the Court stating the reasons a guardianship is needed, send notice to all interested parties, and have a hearing with the Court to determine if the person is qualified to serve as Guardian.
There will be lots of checking in with the Court over the years and the Guardian will have to keep a ledger of any assets the person they have Guardianship over has and how those assets have been spent or managed.
In other words, Guardianship can be pretty heavy stuff and a lot to deal with. So, if you’re a healthy, young, functioning parent, why does that matter to you?
Naming a Guardian in Your Estate Plan
As parents. our first concern is always to take care of our children the best we can. That responsibility doesn’t end immediately when we hit the grave, not if our children are still under 18, anyway.
If you and your spouse die and have no estate plans in place for your family to show police and child welfare workers to prove your wishes for custody of your children, chances are far higher your children will be taken into state custody. I’m pretty certain none of us want that.
So, as a bare minimum, we parents should consider who we would want to care for our children if the worst happened to us. This is especially important if you have any misgivings about certain family members trying to gain custody of your kids for any reason. Because, without your plan in place to show your family and a Court what you want for your children, anyone can step up, or be chosen by the state to step up, to care for your children.
When choosing a Guardian, consider who you trust. Pick someone who holds values you respect. And, most importantly, pick someone who is young enough to handle the job, at least as an alternate or Co-Guardian if your first choice is a grandparent.
If you do not have plans in place for child custody if something happens to you, reach out to a professional for help today!