It’s something no parent likes to think about, but accordingly there’s no better time than the New Year to handpick legal guardians who can raise your children if something happens to you.
Statistics show that 69% of US parents do not have legal guardians named to care for their kids in the event of sudden death or incapacity. If both parents should pass away at the same time a judge will have no choice but to step in and make painful custody decisions on your child’s behalf.
As someone who doesn’t know you, your wishes or the needs of your children, Attorney Vickstrom says “a judge is the last person you want making life-altering decisions for your family if a tragedy strikes.”
That is why estate planning lawyers urge parents to sit down and choose legal guardians for their minor children at the start of the New Year. To help simplify the process and narrow down candidates, Attorney Kristina Vickstrom recommends the following 4 steps:
Sit down and brainstorm all the people who could possibly raise your kids
If you were pass in an accident. Don’t limit your choices to family either. Think outside the box and create a column where you will list out everyone who comes to mind.
Determine who you would NEVER want to raise your kids in your absence
A situation may arise where you need to somehow communicate with the courts regarding who you don’t want raising your kids in the event that individual contests your wishes and seeks custody of your kids anyway (This can be kept private and only revealed if the need arises).
Weigh your values
Weighing values is one of the most overlooked steps when naming guardians. Make a third column and write down what is important to you and/or your spouse. Do you value education? Religious or spiritual training? The ability to live in a certain community? Being raised in a two-parent family? Whatever your values may be, be honest about them, write them down, prioritize them and eventually rank the top three.
From there, match your top guardian choices to your top values. This will give you a clear picture of who you can trust to raise your children with the values you hold near and dear to your heart.
Finally, the most important step…
Legally document their choice of guardians
So that there’s no question as to who you want to raise your kids if the unthinkable happens.
Naming legal guardians should not only be handled in your Will, but also in a separate legal document, that can be enacted in the event you are no longer able to care for your children due to a physical or mental incapacity. The latter document is often overlooked by unskilled attorneys, dabbling in wills and trusts.
For more information about naming guardians for your minor kids or Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney Kristina Vickstrom, please call 508-757-3800 or contact her online.