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Naming Your Kids’ Guardians in Your Will is Not Enough

If you are a parent with children under the age of 18 at home, your number-one estate planning priority should be selecting and legally documenting both their long and short-term guardians. Guardians are the people legally named to care for your children in the event something happens to you.

If you’ve named guardians for your children in your will—even with the help of a lawyer—your kids could still be at risk of being taken into the care of strangers.

The vulnerability of your kids’ care in the event of your absence is a major blind spot in many estate plans. Most people equate estate planning with older generations and elder care. We work with everyone’s individualized planning needs, including families with minor children.

After I started working on the estate administration side—also known as probate—I realized that a will, and its contents, are not effective until death and only when a judge accepts in. That could take a long time during which your minor child would be without an official guardian unless emergency litigation is filed.

If you’ve named guardians for your kids in your will (or have yet to create a will at all), the gap in guardian can be filled. Our priority is to help you put in place the proper legal safeguards so that your kids will be cared for by the people you want should anything ever happen to you.

A Far Too Common Problem

Unless an inclusive plan for guardians is put in place, your children could be vulnerable to being taken out of your home and placed in the care of strangers. This might be temporary, while the authorities figure out what to do, or it could be through adulthood and with a guardian you’d never choose.

While it’s rare for something to happen to both parents of a minor child, the consequences are too severe (and the remedy too easy) to not take the simple steps to select and legally name guardians correctly. Educating parents of minor children about this risk is a priority to our firm.

Regardless of how much wealth you do or do not have, choosing and naming a guardian is vital to a complete plan when you have minor children. You want to know that your kids will be in the care of the people you’ve chosen, not necessarily the people a judge might choose without knowing your values and concerns.

For a quick and easy way to get the legal guardian-naming process started, visit our website and click through the Kids Protection Plan. It’ll only take you 10-20 minutes, and you can create legal documentation naming guardians for the long-term. That’s a great place to start because no matter what happens; you definitely need that.

What’s So Complicated About Naming Guardians?

Naming and legally documenting guardians for your kids can be straightforward, but sometimes there are complexities people should think about.

If you named legal guardians for your kids in your will or prepared a do-it-yourself document through an online platform, consider each of the following scenarios to see if there’s a blind spot in your plan that could leave your kids at risk:

  • Did you name back-up candidates in case your first choice of guardian is unable to serve? If so, how many back-ups did you name?

  • If you named a married couple to serve and one of them is unavailable due to injury, death, or divorce, what happens then? Would it still be okay if only one of them can serve as your child’s guardian? And does it matter which one it is?

  • What happens if you become incapacitated by illness or injury and are unable to care for your kids? You might assume the guardians named in your will would automatically get custody, but a will only goes into effect upon your death and does nothing to protect your kids in the event of your incapacity. Have you created a guardianship plan that goes into effect if you become incapacitated?

  • Do the guardians you named live far from your home? If so, how long would it take them to make it to your house to pick up your kids: a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks? Who would care for your kids until those guardians arrive? Without legally binding arrangements for the immediate care of your children, your kids are likely to be taken into the care of strangers until those named guardians arrive.

  • Would your care providers know where to find your will and other legal documents if you didn’t make it home? If not, what would the authorities do while they tried to figure out who should care for your kids?

  • If you named a nearby family as guardian, what happens if they are out of town or otherwise can’t get to your kids right away?

  • Assuming the guardians you named can immediately get to your home to pick up your kids, do they know where your will is located? How will they prove they are the people you wanted named as your children’s legal guardians if they can’t find your estate planning documents?

The Kids Protection Plan®

These are just a few of the potential complications that can arise when naming legal guardians for your kids, whether in your will or as a stand-alone measure. If just one of these contingencies were to occur, your children would likely be placed into the care of strangers, even if just for a short period of time. If you have any concerns about the six previous scenarios, you need to put the Kids Protection Plan® in place. The Kids Protection Plan® is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children. You can put this plan in place for your kids, and we can help you.

The full Kids Protection Plan® provides parents of minor children with a wide array of legal planning tools—including legal documents to name short- and long-term guardians, instructions for those guardians, medical powers of attorney for your minor children, an ID card for your wallet, and much more—to make sure there is never a question about who will take care of your kids if you are in an accident or suffer some other life-threatening incident.

Get Started Right Away

While you should meet with us to put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place as soon as possible, you can visit our website today to get your plan started for free. Protecting your children is such a critical and urgent issue.

After you’ve input the initial data, you may still want to schedule an Estate Planning Session, and we can put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place. We can review your entire family dynamic and identify potential issues.

If you have already named long-term guardians in your will, either on your own or with a lawyer, we can review your existing legal documents to see whether you have made any of the common mistakes outlined above. If you choose to, we can work together to revise your plan if there is anything that needs to be updated.

Comprehensive Protection For Those You Love Most

Selecting and naming guardians for your minor children should be at the top of your to-do list, but naming guardians is just one ingredient of a thorough estate plan. There are financial decisions to be made and we can talk through strategies to keep your family out of probate. In fact, there are many tools that ensure the wealth and assets you want your children to inherit will be passed on in the most effective and beneficial way possible.

This article is a service of Jennifer Winegardner of Rayboun Winegardner, PLLC. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.

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