A critical starting point in protecting your children is choosing a legal guardian, but if you’ve already chosen a guardian, what steps can you take to ensure you’ve fully planned and protected for your minor children? Below are six key reminders regarding kids’ safeguard planning.
(1) Have an exclusion document. You may have people in your life that you would never want as the guardian of your children. In circumstances like this, particularly if that person is a close family member, you should officially exclude that person from serving as guardian. This exclusion can be done by means of a document called a “Confidential Exclusion of Guardian,” which would never be made public unless there was a custody dispute over guardianship of the children.
(2) Don’t forget to name short-term guardians. Not choosing short-term caregivers is typically a gaping hole in many parents’ plans when it comes to kids’ safeguard planning. For example, if you and your spouse die in a car accident and a police officer comes to the front door that night and is greeted by the teenage sitter, what do you think would happen next? Without naming short-term guardians, your child would be placed in the Department of Children and Families until the authorities could locate a family member and run the necessary background checks. No parent would want that for their child.
(3) Notify the named guardians. Whether it is a short-term guardian, or permanent legal guardian, these individuals should not be caught off-guard if the unthinkable happens to you. All people named should be properly notified so that they know what to do if necessary. One way this can be accomplished is by having your attorney send a Fiduciary Letter to the named guardians.
(4) Provide instructions. You need to provide clear instructions for temporary caregivers and long-term guardians so they know what steps they should take if something were to happen to you. Ensure your guardians know how you want your kids raised by documenting clear instructions. Keep a copy of the document in your house naming both short- and long-term guardians so it can be quickly accessed should it be needed by local authorities.
(5) Use a stand-alone guardian document. Don’t make the mistake of burying guardianship in a Will. What if you become incapacitated (either physically or mentally) so you are unable to communicate and care for your children? A Will does not go into effect in the event of incapacity.
(6) Set up a trust. By not setting up a stand-alone trust to handle your assets, if something happens to you, your family is forced to deal with Probate Court. The Probate process takes time and can tie up assets for months so that your children and guardian would not have access to any of the funds. In addition, the Court would have oversight of your assets until your children reach the age of 18, and your kids would receive an outright distribution at age 18. By setting up a Revocable Living Trust your family would avoid Probate and your assets would be distributed according to your Trust – to whom you want, the way you want, and when you want. Your kids would also be protected if you were to become incapacitated.
If you are a parent with minor children, you want the peace of mind of knowing that if something happens to you, your children will always be taken care of in the way you want, by the people you want and never put in a situation you wouldn’t like. Having a Will alone simply is not enough. Your Will alone does not guarantee the care of your children if the unthinkable happens to you. The Socius Law Firm offers advanced planning known as “Kids’ Safeguard Planning” to ensure you are thinking about what you need to when planning and protecting for your minor children. Contact us today to learn more.