DO YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOUR KIDS IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU TODAY?
Crista Hermance, Estate Planning Mom
Some parents know but most parents don’t know what would happen to their kids if something happened to them. So, if you don’t know, you are with the majority of parents. Generally, if both parents were to pass away with minor children (under 18) and there were no legal documents completed and signed by the parents nominating guardians for their minor children, a court, who has no idea who you would actually want to raise your kids, would determine guardianship for your kids. I know it’s scary to think about. I hear you, I am a mom so I completely understand.
I often hear parents say, “well my kids have god-parents” or “my parents would step in and raise my kids”, which may be true but the court when determining guardianship has no legal document signed by the parents giving this information of who the parents would want. So the court may not grant guardianship to the people you would want and may in fact grant guardianship to someone you wouldn’t want to raise your kids. So what can you do?
There are a few documents that I recommend to parents that allows them to identify guardians they would want to raise their kids if it ever came about. These documents allow parents to nominate guardians, of their choosing, for their kids.
Guardianship Nomination Form – This form will identify who you would want to raise your kids in the long-term. You can be very specific on the details of guardianship in this document relating to not wanting one person in a couple to raise your kids alone but instead going to the alternate guardian listed.
Short-term Guardian Nomination – This form allows parents to identify short-term guardians to step in if something happened to the parents and the long-term guardians or family were not close by. This would give short-term guardians the ability to take custody of the kids so Child Protective Services didn’t have to come in and possibly remove the kids from the home and place them in foster care until family or long-term guardians were able to be located.
A Will – This is a legal document that allows you to identify who gets your stuff AND nominate guardians for your kids. A will is filed with the court upon your passing and is a public document at that point.
We have a Kids Safeguard System® that we use to help families protect their minor kids. The Kids Safeguard System® includes Long-term Guardian Nomination Form, Short-term Guardian Nomination Form, letters to guardians, family emergency information, guardian exclusion letters, instructions to guardians, wallet ID card, and emergency car safety stickers.
In addition to naming long-term guardians using the documents from above, I recommend that you name at least two alternate guardians in your nomination form. This means you have to identify three people or couples, in the order you would like them to serve as guardians for your kids. And, make sure you speak with them to ensure they are okay with this responsibility. This is not something you want to spring on someone.
So How Do You Choose Guardians for Your Kids?
Your kids’ guardian can be a relative or friend. Here are some of the factors our clients have considered when selecting guardians (and alternate guardians).
● How well the kids and potential guardian know and enjoy each other
● Parenting style, moral values, educational level, health practices, religious/spiritual beliefs
● Location – if the guardian lives far away, your kids would have to move from a familiar school, friends, and neighborhood
● The kids’ age and the age and health of the guardian-candidates:
○ Grandparents may have the time, and they may or may not have the energy to keep up with a toddler or teenager.
○ An older guardian may become ill and/or even die before the kids are grown, so there would be a double loss.
○ A younger guardian, especially a sibling, may be concentrating on finishing college or starting a career.
● Emotional preparedness:
○ Someone who is single or who doesn’t want kids may resent having to care for your kids.
○ Someone with a houseful of their own kids may or may not want more around.
I know this can be overwhelming but it’s so important to do. If you haven’t nominated guardians for your minor kids, now is the time to take action and get it done. Not sure where to get started, please send us an e-mail and we can help you.
Crista Hermance, Estate Planning Mom™ is a mom to two little girls and is an Estate Planning Attorney licensed to practice law in California. She has a firm, Hermance Law, www.HermanceLaw.com, located in Ventura, California. Her practice focuses on helping families with minor children protect their families through estate planning. Her team meets with clients locally but can also work with clients virtually throughout the state of California. Crista is currently in the process of rolling out her Kids Safeguard System® throughout the U.S. through The Planning Parent, www.theplanningparent.com. You can reach out to Crista at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @EstatePlanningMom.