Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s a tacit reminder that we are indeed mortal and in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready. What are our plans if this were to happen? Putting your assets in a trust, or last desires into a Will helps to make sure your financial holdings are passed on to whomever you want them to go. But, if you don’t create a care plan, or declare a guardian for your children the courts may decide who cares for your children if you die.
Are you comfortable with a stranger making this decision?
”My greatest fear, someone I don’t know raising my child..”
“What if something happens to me, who is going to take care of my child(ren)?” This is a visceral fear that most parents have at some point. And for good reason; when we raise our children we are trying to put the best of ourselves into them. That means our world view, our lessons learned, our religion or philosophy for life. In short, we are trying to instill our values and love. But not everyone has those same values, do they?
Before we get into how to go about setting up a Guardianship Plan, this is something to considerWho should you appoint as a guardian for your children in the event of an untimely death?
A Guardian Will Be a Parent To Your Children
Establishing the Guardianship Plan (Kids Protection Plan) is the last step in this process. Before you get that far, you should be thinking very seriously about who can provide a lifestyle for your family that you’d be o.k. with. Often this is a sibling, parent, or maybe even an adult child. However, it’s not uncommon to consider someone who isn’t directly related. Your internal family dynamics aren’t on trial, it’s a very personal consideration and decision you are making in the best interest of your family. Don’t unduly narrow the scope of consideration, this is a choice you are making in everyone’s best interest.
Here are some basic requirements and some other things to think about:
A guardian must be:
At least 18 (in most cases)
Able to fulfill their duties as a guardian
Able to financially provide for your children
A guardian should be:
Of similar outlook to you and your partner
Knowledgeable of your goals as a family and parent(s)
Capable of providing emotional support for your children
Stable (family wise, financially, etc)
Someone you’re comfortable having around your children
Aware that they are being asked to be appointed as a guardian
Everyone Should Be Aware of the Process
If you know who you want to take care of your child(ren) the process for establishing a guardian involves declaring it in such a way that it will stand up to scrutiny by a judge if necessary. That’s a wordy way to say that just because you have a wish for a guardian, it doesn’t mean your wishes cannot be challenged. This is why so much consideration should go into your decision of who to appoint as a guardian.
A verbal agreement, for instance, is easily challenged and will not instruct a judge what your wishes are. They may take it into consideration, but without proof, your children will be relying on a judge’s discretion. Someone who doesn’t know you and will only know you through what information you leave behind if any.
An informal written agreement is better than a verbal agreement, but can still be easily challenged unless you’ve written it in such a way that it answers all the questions a judge would have about your wishes. Often this means putting it in a Last Will and Testament, usually prepared by an attorney.
Placing your guardianship plan in your Will means a couple things. First, because you probably had an attorney’s input on the structuring of the guardianship plan, it will be structured to be clear enough to avoid being challenged. Second, it automatically becomes part of the probate process, for which your family will likely have an attorney helping them through. If the plan is part of your Will, the attorney will be working to make sure your plans are carried out.