Many parents avoid this question, but we're going to tell you what may happen and what we can do to change that.
It's a scary question. What would happen to my children if something happened to me? The answer may not be what you expect. Even if you have family nearby, even if you are close friends with your neighbors, even if you have a responsible babysitter, unless you have a written plan in place, your child will likely be taken into child protective custody for at least a period of time.
Let's look at a hypothetical. You and your spouse go out for a nice dinner and leave your children with their favorite babysitter. She's 16, and very responsible. She has all of your emergency numbers and contacts and you and your spouse plan to be back by 9 PM. However, you're in an accident on the way home and as time passes, the babysitter starts getting nervous. At midnight she calls her mother to tell her that you haven't come home and her mother tells her to call the police. When the police arrive at the home to ask the babysitter some questions, they realize these minor children are without a guardian. The babysitter keeps insisting that she will be happy to stay with the children until you come home, or the kids can come home with her. Your neighbors, to whom you are very close, come over and offer for the children to stay at their house. The babysitter has already called your emergency contact, your parents, who live in the next town over and when your parents arrive they insist that they will stay with the children. However, the police are not authorized to leave your children with ANY of these people- not the babysitter, not the neighbor, not even your parents. They'll have to take your children into Child Protective Services.
“However, the police are not authorized to leave your children with ANY of these people- not the babysitter, not the neighbor, not even your parents. They'll have to take your children into Child Protective Services.”
So, at the worst possible time, your children may be removed from their home, and put into the care of strangers until a court can decide who should raise your children.
The Court Decides
As soon as possible, the court will have a hearing to determine who should have temporary and/or permanent custody of your children. Though your children have enough problems at the moment, their parents are gone, they are taken from their familiar home, and are living with strangers, often even more problems arise at this point. Many times, multiple family members step forward to claim the children. Two sets of grandparents may spend a lot of time arguing in court over which should have custody of the children, increasing the instability and stress on your children. Or maybe one of your siblings, whom you would never have chosen to raise your kids, will end up with custody. Who knows? Unless you've made a plan, no one but the court can say.
What We Can Do About It
“By making a plan for your family, you can avoid all of the above.”
At Nest Estate Planning by L. Rachel Wilson, every plan we do, includes guardianship planning for minor children, in case anything ever happens to you and your spouse. By making a plan for your family, you can avoid all of the above. This includes appointing temporary guardians who live nearby and can be available on short notice if anything happens to you. You'll also select permanent guardians, the people you want to raise your children if you cannot. We can also do confidential exclusionary planning, if there is a relative that you definitively do NOT want to raise your children. Any confidential exclusionary planning will only be introduced as evidence, if that relative tries to challenge your guardianship choices. In addition to this, we send letters to the guardians you have chosen, to let them know what to do in case something happens to you and to provide them with documentation that they have the authority to care for your children. We even provide a card for your wallet that will tell emergency responders that you have minor children at home and whom they can call who will have the authority to act as guardian for those children.
Make A Plan
Answering some hard questions now can save your family from these problems in case something happens to you in the future. Estate planning can provide peace of mind and security for your family in more ways than one, and providing for your children and other family members in this way is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give them. If you are ready to make a plan, please contact us at NestEstatePlanning.com or 912-405-NEST.
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