As summer comes to a close, and back-to-school excitement fills the air, there is one crucial task that is often overlooked: designating legal guardians for your minor children. Legal guardians are the individuals you entrust with the care of your children if, for any reason, you are unable to do so yourself.
In the hustle of back-to-school shopping and end-of-season summer fun, it might seem like naming legal guardians for your kids is a low priority, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
As kids return to school, they’ll spend most of their day in the care of other people – their teachers, coaches, and babysitters. That means that your children will spend most of their time with people who do not have any legal authority to take care of them for more than a brief time in the event you are in an accident or can’t be reached for any reason.
And, if your kids are going off to college, you’ll no longer be able to make decisions for them or have access to their medical records in an emergency unless your adult kids create Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives.
Don’t Rely on Informal Agreements
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and as parents, you usually have a network of friends or family you feel you can rely on to step in and care for your child if needed. But it’s essential not to rely solely on informal arrangements with relatives or friends to care for your kids if you can’t.
Whether you are unconscious in the hospital or have passed away, there’s a chance your child could be taken into protective custody by social services until you recover or until a permanent arrangement can be made.
But here’s the thing, the person who ends up taking your child may not be someone your child knows or loves, but a complete stranger in the foster care system. Or, maybe even worse, that person could be someone you never want to raise your kids but who is appointed anyway by a well-meaning court system that doesn’t know what you would want or how you would want your children to be raised.
In addition, if you don’t name legal guardians for your kids you risk creating conflict among family members who want to care for your children and may subject your loved ones to a lengthy and costly court process—an unnecessary burden that can easily be avoided.
You know your child and your family better than anyone else, and you know who would be the best fit for raising your child if something happened to you. But unfortunately, unless you document your choice of guardian in advance, the decision of who would raise your child if you can’t is ultimately left to a judge who doesn’t know you or your family dynamics.
Instead, naming short-term and long-term guardians for your kids ensures they are always cared for by people you know and trust.
And, if your kids are off at college, you cannot rely on the fact that you know they’d want you to have access to their medical records and financial accounts if something happened to them. The hospital or banks need official legal documents for you to get access if needed. That’s why we provide all of our client families with young adult planning documents for kids away at college.
Comprehensive Protection for Your Child
To make sure your kids are always protected and cared for by people you trust, it’s essential to create a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®. Every Kids Protection Plan® enables you to name short-term temporary guardians who have immediate authority to care for your children in an emergency and long-term permanent guardians who can raise your children if you are no longer able.
My Kids Protection Plan® also equips you with emergency ID cards that contain instructions for first responders to contact your child’s guardian if you’re in an accident so they can travel to be with your child right away. Plus, all caregivers, like babysitters and nannies, are provided with precise instructions on how to reach your short and long-term guardians, and that everyone involved in your plan has the necessary legal documents on hand to ensure a smooth process if the need for a guardian arises.
In this way, not only have you legally named guardians for your kids, but you’ve created an entire safety plan to ensure they are always cared for in the way you’d want in any situation.
And for your college-bound kids, it means having young adult planning documents in place like Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives that allow you to access your kids’ accounts or make medical decisions for them if they become incapacitated by an illness or injury.
A Thoughtful Approach for Your Peace of Mind
As your Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we are dedicated to securing the well-being of your children under all circumstances. As the back-to-school season approaches, don’t overlook this essential homework for parents – naming legal guardians and creating your own Kids Protection Plan®.
The first step is to go through our unique planning process to choose the right plan for you, your kids and everyone you love. We begin with a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During the Session, I get to know your family on a personal level to understand your family dynamics and your assets. I’ll share the law with you, and together we’ll look at exactly what would happen to your assets and your loved ones if something happened to you right now.
From there, we choose the right plan for you – at the right budget and that achieves your personal objectives – based on the specifics of your family situation. This ensures your kids and family are cared for and protected no matter what happens, so you can embrace the excitement of this new academic year with peace of mind.