How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

Who Would Raise Your Children If Something Happened to You?

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Randi L. Johnson, Lilac City Law, Estate Planning, Social Security Disability, VA Disability

By Randi L. Johnson

How Do I Appoint a Guardian for My Child If I Die?

 

Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s a tacit reminder that we are indeed mortal and, in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready.  What are our plans if this were to happen?  Putting your assets in a trust, or last desires into a Will – helps to make sure your financial holdings are passed on to whomever you want them to go.  However, if you don’t create a care plan, or declare a guardian for your children the courts may decide who cares for your children if you die.

Are you comfortable with a stranger making this decision?

 

A Stranger Might Raise Your Children

“My greatest fear, someone I don’t know raising my child… What if something happens to me, who is going to take care of my child?”

This sentiment is a visceral fear that most parents have at some point.  And for a good reason; when we raise our children, we are trying to put the best of ourselves into them.  That means our world view, and our lessons learned, even our religion or philosophy for life.  In short, we are trying to instill our values and love.  But not everyone has those same values, do they?

Before we get into how to go about setting up a Guardianship Plan, this is something to consider…Who should you appoint as a guardian for your children in the event of untimely death?

 

Who Should Raise Your Children if You Die?

Establishing the Guardianship Plan (Kids Protection Plan) is the last step in the process of protecting your kiddos.  Before you even get that far, you should first be thinking very seriously about who can provide a lifestyle for your family that you’d be ok with raising your family. 

Often this is a sibling, parent, or maybe even an adult child.  However, it’s not uncommon to consider someone who isn’t directly related. Your internal family dynamics aren’t on trial; it’s a very personal consideration and decision you are making in the best interest of your family. Don’t unduly narrow the scope of consideration; this is a choice you are preparing for everyone’s best interest.

Here are some basic requirements and some other things to think about:

 

Your children’s guardian must be:

  • At least 18 (in most cases)
  • Able to fulfill their duties as a guardian
  • Able to financially provide for your children

 

Your children’s guardian should be:

  • Of similar outlook to you and your partner
  • Knowledgeable of your goals as a family and parent(s)
  • Capable of providing emotional support for your children
  • Stable (family wise, financially, etc.)
  • Someone that you’re comfortable having around your children.
  • Aware that they are being asked to be appointed as a guardian

 

 

How to Appoint a Guardian For Your Children

If you know who you want to take care of your children, the process for establishing a guardian involves declaring your desires in such a way that it will stand up to scrutiny by a judge if necessary. That’s a wordy way to say that just because you have a wish for a guardian, it doesn’t mean your preferences cannot, or will not, get challenged.  This potential hurdle is why so much consideration should go into your decision of who to appoint as a guardian.

A verbal agreement, for instance, is quickly challenged and will not instruct a judge what your wishes are. They may consider it, but without proof, your children will be relying on a judge’s discretion.  In this case, a judge well-meaning meaning but does not know you and will only know you through what information you leave behind if any. Frankly, there are too many unknowns here for me or most moms to feel comfortable knowing things will, “turn out ok!”

Better than a verbal agreement, a quickly drafted written agreement provides at least some potential protection.  In this sense, an informal written agreement certainly is better than a verbal agreement, but it can still be easily challenged.  When looking for how to prepare documents to stand up to future challenges, we always advise putting them together in such a way that it answers all the questions a judge would have about your wishes. That’s why when we prepare guardianship plans, we put all these wishes, desires, values, and more into a well prepared, and notarized, Last Will and Testament.

Placing your guardianship plan in your Last Will means a couple of things.  First, because you probably had an attorney’s input on the structuring of the guardianship plan, it will be structured to be clear enough to avoid being challenged.  Second, it automatically becomes part of the probate process, for which your family will likely have an attorney helping them through.  If the plan is part of your Will, the attorney will be working to make sure your wishes are carried out according to what you have drafted.

 

Alternatives to Placing Your Guardianship Plan in a Will or Estate Plan?

It is possible to create a Guardianship Plan and not have it be part of your Will. Here’s a free and easy way for you to do it right now.<- This will get you set up with the basics of a Kids Protection (and Guardianship) Plan. You’ll still want to consider having an attorney involved in this process, even if you can use that link to start laying out your desires without one.  The benefits, as described before, are that with an attorney’s assistance you’ll be creating a plan that will stand up to the scrutiny the law requires a judge to pay to your desires and the well-being of your children.

 

What Happens to My Family If I Die?

Strictly speaking, death isn’t the only way a Guardianship Plan might become necessary.  A Guardianship Plan might be essential if you (and your partner) become incapacitated in some manner too. This potentiality in and of itself describes why you might want to make this more of a protection plan than something you place in your Will and forget.  If you haven’t died, but need to appoint a guardian, you likely still want the plan to support your desires!

Back to the point, what happens if you die?  The processes are determined by the state you live within, but generally speaking, a guardian will be required to establish the ability to provide for your children. This procedure occurs in a court setting. Here’s a great list of requirements and resources for more information, by state.  Of course, if you have questions about this, you can always respond in the comments below too, or send us a question/messagehere.

 

Have you Been Through this Process as a Child or as a Guardian?

We’d love to put together a list of tips or lessons learned from the perspective of a child having gone through this, or from the perspective of a guardian having adopted the children of deceased parents.  Please feel free to reach out to us so we can help parents better understand how this process works.  You can contact us hereor connect with us on Facebook.

 

I’m Ready to Protect My Family if I Die, What Do I Need to Do?

Reach out to us via the contact form below, or simply call our office. Our team will reach out to you and send you all the information you need.  We are here to help you protect your family.  It’s our mission and our passion to support you and your family. 

 

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I had a great experience with Randi and her team this past year when we worked with them to create our first-ever wills and trust. Planning for your untimely death and discussing personal finances aren't always fun topics, but we were appreciative of Randi's approach to these potentially uncomfortable conversations and especially liked the recorded legacy interview she conducted with us. Total 5-star experience!
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My husband and I worked with Randi and her team to complete our last will and testament, advanced directive, and health care proxy in the summer of 2018. Randi, and her team, as well as David Morris, were exceptionally kind, very professional, and thorough. We had several meetings to go through the important stuff - the financial info, heirlooms, and disposition of my husband's motorcycle. At each meeting, Randi and her team listened to our intentions and concerns. At the signing ceremony, we got a huge binder with our info and a data stick for safekeeping. Included in our will is a review which will take place every other year. We also got a document which states who can take our children to give our babysitter in case something bad happens to us when we were out. I'm very satisfied with Lilac City Law, and their work. I would recommend them without qualification to anyone.
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Parents are so intentional about so many aspects of their children's lives. Few will forgo putting together a will. But, what if you don't die? What if you are just incapacitated? Are you prepared for the unexpected? Are you leaving your children at risk? If someone else does raise them, do you know that they will be raised according to your wishes? Have you even thought through what your wishes are? All these questions and more will be covered in the process of completing a Family Protection Plan with Randi Johnson at Lilac City Law. Having our Family Protection Plan in place gives me an incredible sense of comfort and peace of mind. I highly recommend Randi and the staff at Lilac City Law. Hopefully you never need her services, but isn't it better to be prepared than to leave things to chance?
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5 Reasons to Create a Will Today 

Lilac City Law will help you establish your Will

 


One of the best things you can do to protect those you love and the assets you will leave behind in the event you pass away is to create a will today. Most people tend to avoid discussing what will happen to their wealth and estate should the worst occur, and we agree, it’s not exactly a cheery subject. However, if you don’t take the steps now to create a Will while you’re still alive, then the Government will make those important decisions for you… now that’s a scary thought! 

 

When you create a will, you are effectively spelling out exactly how you would like your wealth and estate to be handled after you pass away. There are tons of reasons why creating a will is so important, but here are 5 of them that will hopefully motivate you to start a meaningful discussion on family planning with your local Spokane law offices today.

 

Reason #1: Take care of Your Children

Children, especially very young children, can be most vulnerable to uncertainty in the event that they suddenly become orphans. A Will grants you the power to appoint a person you trust wholeheartedly as the guardian for your children when you’re gone. Otherwise, the State will decide who gets to take care of your little ones.

Of course, raising children isn’t exactly cheap these days. Fortunately, you can also set up a trust fund which is managed by Trustees whom you trust and choose, to provide financial support.

 

Reason #2: Ensure Proper Distribution of Your Wealth 

We’ve all heard of countless horror stories of family and even non-family members fighting over who gets what when someone dies. When you create a Will, however, you can specify who receives what and how much. In addition, you can also include special provisions for non-family members such as close friends or mentors.

 

Reason #3: Protect your Family Business

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, less than a third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Of those that do survive, half of them won’t make it from second to third generation ownership. A Will lets you ensure that your company is properly passed down to your heirs or co-owners.

 

Reason #4: Shorten up the Probate Process

Regardless of whether you have a legal Will on file or not, your estate will need to go through a probate process. These processes are necessary to administer how your estate will be distributed, but they are often complicated and time-consuming and can be a burden for loved ones to have to deal with on top of your passing away. With a will, however, the process can be cut shorter and helps reduce the unnecessary hassle.

 

Reason #5: A Will can help Reduce Estate Taxes

A will can help you reduce your estate taxes so you can ensure that your beneficiaries get as much value as possible. Once your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries, the value of your estate is also reduced therefore lowering your estate tax bill.

 

Get in touch with Lilac City Law and start your family planning today.

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Why You Need to Update Your Estate Plan After These Life Events

Too many estate plans are created and then quickly forgotten, put on a shelf, and never looked at again. While we do recommend that you review and update your estate plan at least every three years, no matter what happens in your life, your plan must be updated immediately in the event of any of these seven life events.

Marriage

Getting married is the joining together of two lives. Your plan must address and account for your new legal status. Naming your spouse as a beneficiary on your insurance policies, updating your will and/or trust, and including him or her in the determination of how your financial and medical decisions will be made, if you cannot make them for yourself, are all critical steps to take after marriage.

Divorce

When you begin the process of getting divorced, you also must update your estate plan, unless you continue to want your future ex-spouse to receive your assets, and make financial and medical decisions for you, if you cannot.

Once your divorce is complete, you may have an entirely new asset profile to plan for now that you know what you own, what your ex-spouse owns and how you hold title to your assets, so it’s time to update your estate plan.

Births and adoptions

Providing for the care and custody of your child in the event of your death or incapacity is  paramount in your estate plan. That means naming guardians for your new child, both long and short-term, with a Kids Protection Plan® is a must. And, if you have not already done so, you’ll definitely want to consider setting up a trust for your child, to receive the assets you will be leaving behind.

Deaths

The death of a loved one die is never easy. And when they were a part of your estate plan, their death should prompt a review of your own plan sooner rather than later. You may need to name new beneficiaries, find a new person to hold Power of Attorney, update your health care directive, or identify new guardians for your children. This should not be put on the backburner.

Sickness

If you are in the midst of an illness, you may want to revisit who you have chosen to make medical decisions for you, in the event that you cannot, and how you want those decisions to be made.

Moving

When you move to a new State, have a lawyer review your estate plan to ensure your documents will still operate as you desire. . Some documents may need to be revised and you will certainly want to ensure any new real estate you acquire in your move is accounted for and properly transferred into your plan.

New Assets Acquired

More money means more problems, but only if you don’t plan well. Revisit your estate plan each time you change investment accounts, inherit any assets, acquire new property or other investments, or start or sell a business. Most plans fail because they do not take into account all of the assets owned by the person who died.

Update your Estate Plan

If you are anticipating or have recently experienced one of these major life events, contact us. It’s time to update your plan.

 

This article is a service of Randi Johnson, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t 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.

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The Challenges of Creating a Guardian Plan for Children


Inspired by an Article in Mom.Me

“Why I Still Don’t Have a Guardian for My Child” 


Sometimes you come across something that another person writes that stops you and makes you say, “yes! This is what I’ve been trying to say.”  An article written in Mom.Me (link above) recently highlighted, clearly, the work we’ve been doing here at Lilac City Law to help families create a guardian plan.  We felt an article like this really must be shared.

In the article the author tells a couple stories.  The first is of the chaos and support she received when her father died.  And the realization she had that his passing without a will, guardian plan, or wealth plan created challenges and even a bit of resentment among his survivors.   <- Figuring out what you can, should, and are able to do with the assets of someone is far more challenging and stressful when they are not around to give their intent; especially, absent a will or Guardian Plan.

She Learned a Lesson but Never Followed Through

The author swore not to put her kids in the same situation.  Eleven years passed between the author’s recognition of the need for a will and guardian plan, yet, she never did complete these.  This is the part of the article that hits home.  And it echoes why Lilac City Law started providing family wealth and kids protection planning.  If you missed it, here’s my story too.

In the article the author reaches out to friends to find out their take on why they knowingly avoided the issue of creating a guardian plan for their child(ren).

The Author is Not Alone

The author’s friends shared with her reasons including:

  • Dysfunctional family and relatives / next of kin
  • Fear of telling family
  • Worry about family resisting desires of various plans
  • Finding guardians who share faith and values
  • Desiring guardians who may not be family
  • The awkwardness of approaching potential guardians
  • Compassion and concern for the feelings of potential guardians
  • Skepticism that a potential guardian would be able to take on that role

Creating a Guardian Plan is Kinda Scary

There are a lot of reasons that can hold you up in creating a guardian plan or will.  Of course there are the common concerns cited by the author and her friends above.  In addition to these, there’s easily dozens more reasons why you’d delay (until it’s too late) creating one of these plans.   Waiting is not a good plan, but neither is doing it half-heartedly.  If you’re going to create a plan create it right.

Creating a guardian plan takes courage.  Courage to realize that at some point everyone passes.  And for many, even more courage to be able to lay things out for your family in ways they may not agree with.  A good guardian plan or will is your way to say, for my family (and assets), these are my wishes.

See the video below to preview what a good guardian plan, estate plan, or will looks like.


There’s a difference between a do it yourself plan (DIY) and working with a dedicated professional. 


 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop 

Estate Plans, Incapacity Plans, Wills, and Kids Protection Plans 

 

The article referenced and the stories cited in this blog post were written by Sarah Tucker, and published on mom.me on Oct 19, 2016

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Create a Plan to Protect Your Children


Family is important to Lilac City Law.  We have dedicated a big part of our business to supporting families in all phases of life. From Kids Protection Plans to disability and long term support advocacy.  The one thing we know that always makes things easier, is the value of creating a plan.  

Remember When..

Think about it like this.  You are a parent, when you had your first child you went through a process.  You discovered you were pregnant and probably saw a doctor.  Then you started to get information about your child’s development.  After a couple months you realized there was going to be a whole process you needed to have a plan figured out for the actual child birth event.

Building a Plan

Were you going to give birth to your child at home, in a tub, or in a hospital?  Did you want a midwife, doctor, or someone else to deliver your child?  Did you plan to go to parenting and birth classes?  You probably spent a great deal of time thinking about all these things and more!  And this was for the birth of your child.  No doubt you had a small bit of anxiety about what happened next..

Childcare, work-life balance, school, doctors appointments, sports, sick kids, changing, immunizations.  All decisions that were going to be made and that you were going to be responsible for.  But what if you weren’t.  What if you couldn’t make those decisions because of a worst case scenario?  Who would?  How would you make sure your vision and your wishes were implemented for family?

This is where and why Estate Planning, Incapacity Planning, & Kids Protection Planning exists.  And this is also why we do what we do at Lilac City Law.

Without a Plan

In the worst case of the worst case.  A death or incapacity, a plan does sort of already exist.  However, that plan has been put in place by the state.  A judge who doesn’t know you or your wishes will be forced to make decisions for your children..without your input.

What are your desires for your children in the event of your death or incapacity?  Who do you want to take care of your children?  Who is going to manage your assets?

Create a Plan and Keep your Family Protected

Again, remember that plan you laid out before the birth of your children?  Remember how many contingencies it accounted for?  You did this because even though you hadn’t met them yet, your children and their futures mattered dearly to you.  You recognized that the more you planned ahead, the less likely the worst case scenario would occur.

A Kids Protection Plan is a plan you should create now for those children for that very same reason.

 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop 

Estate Plans, Incapacity Plans, and Kids Protection Plans 

 

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The Value of Proper Protection Planning

If you Google “Kids Protection Plans” you will see the work we are putting into providing services, education, & support to our community.  LCL is doing this because we are striving to be a “different kind of law firm.”  Being different means building a relationship with you and using that relationship to personalize a plan for you and your family.  This is our protection planning process, it is fundamental to our mission of providing the best Personal Family Law services possible.  

The Usual Talk

Establishing an effective planning process with your family lawyer is very important.  Most family lawyers will say, “Without proper planning…[fill in the blank].”  But they don’t walk you through what that means or how you will know if you’ve actually set up a proper plan.  They focus on what happens without the plan and leave it to you to fill in the blank that they can do it for you.  They are selling fear, then selling themselves as the solution.

The fear is that without the plan, your children could be placed in CPS.  A judge can decide who will raise your kids.  A portion of your assets could be lost to probate.  Your children’s financial inheritance can be poached by morally questionable “wealth planners” when they turn 18.  In fact, the harder we think, the more we can bring to the table as potential reasons for you to be concerned.  There are more things to be afraid of than are even reasonable to discuss.

Having a Proper Plan

So what does it mean having a proper plan? How is reframing the discussion about establishing a plan better than discussing the fears about not having one?  Well, first, having a plan effectively mitigates the scary scenarios above.  A proper plan also has other tangible and intangible benefits.

A proper plan takes a weight off your shoulders.  It gives you confidence and removes stress from your already busy plate.  It is also good for your family.  A plan demonstrates to them in a direct way that you are planning for the worst case.  And for your growing family, it demonstrates the value of looking into the future and planning contingencies for the potential worst cases.

It has to Work for You

In addition to how it makes you feel, a proper plan is also one that works.  The plan will work in the situations that you foresee, and maybe the ones that you don’t.  It will reflect the needs of your family today, as well as in the future.  It will be a custom plan.  And it will be an up to date plan.  This is where LCL really makes a difference.  We build custom Kids and Family wealth plans based on your needs.  And we do it based on getting to know you and your family today and in whatever tomorrow brings.

Find out More: Protection Planning

 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop

Family Wealth and Kids Protection Plans 

 

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