This month’s Legal Brief is all about protecting your family from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Guardianship is an important decision when you have minor children needing care. Having a will in place to name a trusted person as guardian for your children should not be left for others to decide. We also give some points to consider when choosing the right person for this role. Allowing you to confidently choose a guardian for your children.
Making Guardianship Decisions
The Baudelaire children in Lemony Snicket’s classic series make the most of many unfortunate circumstances. While these stories are fiction, the initial challenges the children face point to some very real difficulties children may face if both parents pass away suddenly without solid estate planning.
A will ensures you have the right guardianship elements in place. Choosing a guardian for your children can be a difficult decision. At Stone Law we understand that thinking about and planning for what will happen when we pass away can be tough. However, this planning is critical, especially when minor children are involved. Children and grandchildren often require special attention when planning your estate.
Guardianship: Know what will happen to your children
Your will names specific guardians and alternates if your first choice is unable to take on guardianship responsibilities. The Baudelaire children end up in the care of an uncle indifferent to the children’s loss. He inadequately provides for the children’s physical and emotional needs. While this is grossly overstated for the sake of the story, this is very hard to watch as a parent. Especially if you watch Jim Carrey’s portrayal of their uncle! Many children make the best of whatever their circumstances, but wouldn’t have to when placed with a caring, compassionate guardian from the start.
The Baudelaire parents name next of kin for the children’s guardian. For some this may work out well. However, doing so leaves this crucial guardianship decision for your children at the discretion of the probate court. If you have more than one grandparent, sibling, or cousin this could be any of those depending on the situation after your death. Sometimes this decision is a difficult one. However, don’t allow the difficulty of the decision to push off creating and signing your will. At Stone Law, we have a simple, straightforward process with our Young Family Plan. This process was designed with your hectic life in mind. When you call, we send you some paperwork to fill out and return, and schedule a meeting to sign your documents.
How do I choose a Guardian for my children?
There are multiple factors to consider when you choose a guardian for your children.
- Who will provide the best care for your children’s physical needs? If your family home burnt down like the Baudelaire’s would they have adequate living space? Will this home be close to your children’s school or will they need to change schools?
- Financial guardianship is critical to ensuring that your children are provided for. Consider schooling, sports or other classes, and other physical needs like clothing and food. Taking on someone’s children can be an adjustment. If financial needs are met and managed wisely that can make the transition smoother for everyone.
- Will the guardian be emotionally available to your children? Losing parents seems to be par for the course in literature and Disney movies but this is not an easy time for children. The person named as guardian should love on your children and be willing to seek out counseling as needed.
- Often overlooked, the spiritual development of your children may be important to you as well. Many parents have a set of religious beliefs and want their children to learn and grow in an environment consistent with their beliefs.
- As your children grow you may want to include them in the decision. Or ease their fears by letting them know what would happen, that there is a plan, and who to contact. Peace of mind can be good for children as well. Especially if they are curious or worried after reading or watching something.
- Family is not the only option for guardian. If you have a willing friend that better lines up with the above listed factors, they may be the best choice for your family. Just ensure that this will not disconnect your children from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Plan for all of the above within your will. Is there a couple or an individual that would be a good guardian but you’d like someone else to manage finances or spiritual development? Any specific wishes you have can be listed in your will. At Stone Law we ensure that all the specifics are addressed and tailored to your wishes. Don’t wait, choose a guardian for your children today!