None of us want to think about something terrible happening to ourselves, especially when our children are young. However, we all know someone who either died unexpectedly or was in a terrible accident causing them to be unable to care for their children.
Protecting your children in the event of your death or incapacity should not be something put off for another day. The way to protect your children is to nominate a guardian for your children for physical custody, temporary custody and financial matters. Also, you need to have an Authorization to Consent to Medical Treatment for the children as well as Letters to the Guardians.
Selecting a Guardian
The decision about who will be guardian of your children is possibly the most important decisions you will make. If you already know who you want to be the guardian…great! Time to write it down and make it official and avoid a lengthy court process following your incapacity or death. But for the rest of you, here are some things that you may want to think about:
a) Where does this potential guardian live? Will your children have to change schools, neighborhoods or states to live with their guardian?
b) Does this potential guardian have the same religious, moral and general parenting beliefs as you?
c) Is this potential guardian interested in raising your children as his or her own if something happens to you?
Children’s Access to the Estate
If something happens to you and your significant other when your children are young, at what age do you want them to have access to your estate (i.e. savings accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds)? Some parents appoint a trustee to manage the estate until the children are well into adulthood. Other people distribute assets once the children have completed college or a trade school. There is no right answer, but this estate plan will help your family carry out your wishes when you are gone.
Creating an estate plan to protect your children and assets does not need to be difficult and it does not have to be set in stone. Circumstances change and your estate plan can change with it. While it can be tough to think about a possible incapacity or death, it is much better for you to make decisions about your children and your assets now rather than having the decisions be made by someone else.
An estate plan will give you peace of mind knowing that your family’s affairs are in order. If you would like to discuss establishing an estate plan for your family, I see people Monday-Friday for a FREE 30 minute consultation in Walnut Creek and Brentwood.
This article provides only general legal information, and not specific legal advice. Information contained is not a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. LAW OFFICE OF JOAN M. GRIMES, PHONE (925) 939-1680 1600 S. Main Street, Suite 100, Walnut Creek, CA 94596 © 2018 Joan Grimes