You’ve done it. You’ve taken the leap in to parenthood. You didn’t quite understand the amount of responsibility that came with becoming a parent until you saw that little squishy face. Then – wham. So much to think about, so much to plan for: how to feed the baby; when to sleep train; should the diaper contents be that color (yes, we’ve all been there)? You may have forgotten the pacifier, the burp cloth or a change of clothes for baby (and you) since that little being came in to your life, and that’s OK. The small things aren’t going to matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m here to remind you of the things that will matter. As a mom and a lawyer, here’s my top 5.
- Naming a long-term guardian. 69% of people have not named legal guardians for their children. That’s 69% of families who are at risk of their children ending up in the system in the event that something happens to them. To avoid this, you must sit down and have the difficult discussion about who you want to raise your child in the event you can’t. It will be difficult. No one will raise your children the exact way you would. This is something you will have to accept before you can make your choice about the next best option.
- Naming a temporary guardian. So many of the people that do think of naming a guardian only consider long term care, but what about the short term? In the case that you were unable to make it home from work to pick up the kids or relieve the babysitter, who would care for your children? In the event that you and your husband finally get that date night you’ve been longing for, and god forbid end up in an accident and are unable to get to the kids, then what? It is so important, and in fact necessary, that you plan for such events so that your children don’t end up being dragged in to the system.
- Giving proper instructions to your caregiver. Naming short term and long term guardians is meaningless unless you give your caregiver proper instructions in the event of an emergency. Does your babysitter know who your named guardians are? How to find their contact info? Do they know where your guardianship papers are so that they can provide them to the authorities if necessary? Your children will only end up with the guardians you select if the caregiver is aware of the named guardians and has access to the paperwork. You can download and use my Caregiver Emergency Sheet here.
- Thinking about more than financial resources when naming guardians for your children. Most people I talk to about naming guardians are most concerned with how their children will be brought up. Common concerns being, religious, political and spiritual beliefs. Yet, they’re initial instinct is to choose someone with the financial resources to raise their children. While being able to financially support your child is definitely an issue, your goal should be to name someone that alleviates your fears about not being able to raise your children yourself; and this often leads to a choice, usually the right choice, of someone who will raise your child the closest to how you would if you were able.
- Putting a complete Estate Plan in place. A will is not enough. That little squishy face that changed your entire life will not be completely protected by a will alone. Wills end up in probate, which is a completely open and public process. Probate can take up to fifteen months, depending on your state. If you do not have the proper documents in place, not only will your children end up in the system, but a trustee could be appointed by the court to control any assets you left for your child’s support. It’s best to have a complete estate plan in place, including a trust that will pass assets privately to named trustees that you choose in advance.
It may seem like something you don’t need to worry about because odds are, nothing will happen. Or it may seem like a daunting task to think of how you want to address these topics. However, the truth is that if you think about it for just a short time and take a small amount of time out of your day, you can ensure your children are protected for a lifetime. I wouldn’t want anything less my children and would think it safe to say you feel the same.
To get started, call us today. (317) 663-9190