As we head into the third year of the pandemic, we are coming to terms with just how fragile our lives and health really are. If you haven’t gotten sick yourself, it’s almost certain you know someone who has, and many of us even know of one or more individuals who have died in the past two years.
Although serious illness and death are something we are always at risk for—and should plan for—the pandemic has forced many of us to face our own mortality like no other event in recent memory. Some of those worst-case scenarios we thought would never happen now seem much more likely, and for some people, those unthinkable situations have even become reality.
Understanding The Risks
Yet even if you manage to avoid becoming sick right now, the fact remains that we are all vulnerable to serious illness or injury, regardless of how young or healthy you are. And if you are a parent, one of the most frightening aspects of that reality is knowing that should something happen to you, your children would be left without you to care for them, whether only for a temporary period or permanently.
With this in mind, consider the following scenario: You and your spouse are out to dinner, and your kids are at home with the babysitter. On your way home, you get into a car accident. When you fail to make it home on time, the babysitter calls you repeatedly, but when no one answers, she calls the police.
The police arrive and find your kids with the babysitter, who offers to stay with the children until a relative can be found to take them. But because the babysitter doesn’t have the legal authority to care for the children—even temporarily—the police have no choice but to call Child Protective Services. These authorities will take your children into custody until they can locate and/or appoint the proper guardian.
This is the case even if you have friends or family living nearby who are willing to care for the children. If you haven’t left proper legal documentation, the authorities have no option but to call Child Protective Services. You must give the authorities a legal basis for keeping your children with the friends or family you designate.
What’s more, your kids are still at risk of being taken by the authorities even if you’ve named legal guardians for them in your will. That’s because your will only becomes operative in the event of your death, so if you are incapacitated by an accident or illness, your will would be ineffective.
Or perhaps the guardians you named in your will live far from your home, so it would take them several days to get there. If you haven’t made legally-binding arrangements for the immediate care of your children, it’s highly likely that they will be placed with Child Protective Services until those guardians arrive.
And does anyone even know where you will is located and how to access it?
Most Guardianships Are Lacking These are just a few of the many scenarios that can cause your children to be taken into custody by strangers or placed with a family member you would never want caring for them. And sadly, we see this happen even to those parents who’ve worked with lawyers to name legal guardians for their children in their will, because most lawyers simply don’t know what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.
However, as a Personal Family Lawyer® firm, we have been trained by the author of the best-selling book, Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents, on legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children. As a result of this training, we offer a comprehensive system known as the Kids Protection Plan®, which is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with young children.
The Kids Protection Plan® provides parents of minor children with a wide array of legal planning tools to make sure there is never a question about who will take care of their kids if they are in an accident or suffer some other life-threatening incident. The full Kids Protection Plan® includes all of the following:
Legal documents to name short-term guardians, who can be there immediately for your children, so they will never be taken into the arms of strangers or anyone you wouldn’t want. Not even for a moment.
Letters to the people you name as short-term guardians, so the people you have named will know just what to do if called upon.
Instructions to everyone who takes care of your kids as to exactly what to do if you are in an accident, so there’s never any question about what to do or who to call.
Legal documents to name long-term guardians, who will raise your children just as you would, so there is no family feuding over your children.
Letters to your long-term guardians, letting them know exactly what to do if called upon.
Instructions and guidelines for your long-term guardians on how you want your kids to be raised to ensure your kids are raised with your values, insights, stories, and experience.
Here’s How To Get Started
If you’ve yet to take any action at all on appointing a guardian for your children, please contact our firm and we can help you take the first steps to create legal documents naming long-term guardians for your children to ensure that should anything happen to you prior to creating your formal estate plan, your kids would be cared for by the people you would want in exactly the way you would want.
After you’ve completed those initial actions, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us, your neighborhood Personal Family Lawyer®, where we will put the full Kids Protection Plan® in place, and determine if there is anything else your family might need to ensure the well-being and care of your children no matter what happens.
If you have already named long-term guardians in your will, either on your own or with a lawyer, we can review your existing legal documents to see whether you have made any of the six common mistakes that could leave your kids at risk, and then revise your plan to ensure your children are fully protected.
A Learning Experience Although the pandemic is likely to go down as one of the most tragic periods of our lifetime, if it motivates more people to get serious about estate planning, it may end up having some lasting positive effects. On that note, if you are a parent of minor children and want to ensure that your kids will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what happens to you, meet with us, your Personal Family Lawyer® to put the Kids Protection Plan® in place today.
This article is a service of BC Counselors at Law, PLLC. We do not just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.