Content provided by WealthCounsel.
Modified and edited by James W. Garrett.
As a parent, you spend time every day making sure your children are provided with life’s necessities – things like good nutrition, clothing, education, physical activity and shelter. In addition to attending to your children’s physical needs, you also spend time teaching your children values and modelling good behavior. You also do many other things for your children– far too numerous to list.
But, what if you are no longer around to care for and raise your children? Have you thought about who among your family or friends could step in and care for your children if you couldn’t? With all the considerations about your children’s wellbeing weighing on your mind from day to day, it can be easy to forget about one of the most important factors in keeping them well cared for and secure: naming a guardian in your estate pl
If you are the parent of a minor child, have you provided for a guardian in your Will? Since nearly 65% of adult Americans do not have a Will, the odds are you haven’t done this.
If you have a Will, when was the last time you thought about this issue? If you have no idea or it’s been several years, it’s probably time “to dust off” your Will and review your selection of a guardian. Children change a lot from year to year as they mature from infants into their teenage years. Their care needs and who would make a good guardian can change over time as well. Is the person you previously appointed as their guardian still the best choice? Because your children’s lives are constantly evolving, something that worked even a few years ago may be out-of-date now.
Back-to-school time is a good reminder to revisit your estate plan and guardianship designations. Here are the specific areas you’ll want to address:
- Review and refresh of guardianship nominations: Is the guardian you named in your Will for your children if something happens to you still the person you would want to fill that role? Is the named guardian still available to do so, and would your children be satisfied with this choice of guardian?
- Consider writing the “ultimate babysitter note:” When entrusting your children to a babysitter, you probably leave a note to remind the sitter of how you want your children to be cared for during your absence, including emergency contact information. Similarly, wouldn’t it be a good idea to leave some instructions for your guardian to guide him or her on how you want your children to be raised? If you haven’t written the “ultimate babysitter note” for your guardian, you ought to consider doing so.
- Review and refresh your estate plan: It’s always a good idea to keep your estate plan as up to date as possible. The addition of a new child to your family by birth or adoption may mean your plan requires substantial changes. If either of these events occurred since the last time you updated your estate plan, it is imperative that you don’t wait to make any necessary alterations to your plan. This is also the case if one of your children has turned 18.
- Is your child between the ages of 18 and 25? Suppose you have a daughter who has turned 18. She has become an adult under the law. Although your young adult no longer needs a legal guardian, she may continue to be dependent on you for several years – particularly if she attends college. Did you know that when your child turns 18, you no longer have legal authority over her? Although she may no longer need a guardian, she needs someone who can legally act on her behalf in the event of an accident or illness. Unless your child signs a Power of Attorney naming you as her agent, you will have to go to court to obtain the legal power to manage her property and legal affairs. Unfortunately, going to court to obtain legal powers over your child takes time and expenses. It’s far better to obtain legal authority over your child’s affairs in advance by having your child name you as her Agent using a Power of Attorney.
Back-to-school time means a flurry of activity for most parents. Although shopping for supplies and attending school functions may dominate your to-do list, remember to set up an appointment with us to review your estate plan for any necessary updates that could impact your children’s wellbeing. We’re always here to help. Give us a call today.