Who Will Take Care of Your Young Kids?
Parents with young children have A LOT going on. Sleepless nights, diapers, and constantly putting some piece of furniture or toy together. Later it evolves to packing lunches, getting them on the school bus, and traveling to practice, gymnastics, sporting events, etc. All the while maintaining your home, job, pets, relationships--you name it, and young families are probably in the thick of it. Believe me, we understand the constant "go, go, go" mentality with a toddler of our own!
With all the beautiful chaos that is parenthood, parents will always have certain priorities that take precedent over others. In my experience, one of those priorities that routinely takes a back seat for young families is the idea of creating an estate plan. I have met with a fair share of families with infants, toddlers, or adolescents who have never even considered the question of, "who's going to take care of my children if something happens to both me and my spouse?"
I get it. It's a morbid thought and no one ever wants to plan for, let alone even discuss, the possibility that something could happen to us. But as the news always likes to remind us, there are plenty of tragic events that knock on some families' doorsteps. When you consider all the risk factors today with respect to things like distracted drivers or any other catastrophic newsworthy events, or simply an unexpected health diagnosis that throws life upside down, we realize how fragile life is.
While we never want to think about such a tragedy happening to us, we owe it to our young children (and our other family members), to have a plan in place in case we don't come home one night, whether permanently or due to a health emergency that sends us to a hospital. Who's going to take care of your children?
Have you considered this question before now? Think about the players in your family and friend circle. Do you want your sister-in-law with the financial woes to oversee handling the assets you leave for your kids? Or what if you have a best friend who is like a sibling, and deep down you want that friend to raise your children, but your family has no idea of your wishes? Maybe all these people will place their hat in the ring and fight to become the legal guardian of your children, putting your kids in the middle of an intense court battle they never asked for.
My guess would be you would rather decide for yourselves who should control whatever you leave for your kids, let alone who should raise them to be model young men and women as they grow. You don't get to choose the answers to these questions if you don't write it down and leave a plan for someone to follow!
Here's what needs to be in an estate plan for families with young children:
Health Care Power of Attorney - appoint someone to make your medical decisions in case of incapacity;
Durable Power of Attorney - appoint someone to make your financial decisions in case of incapacity;
Last Will and Testament - appoint someone to handle your affairs after you pass away and who will inherit any assets you own, and, maybe most importantly, families with minor children have the opportunity to nominate a guardian of his/her choosing to take care of minor children until they reach adulthood;
Some families may consider setting up a Trust as a vehicle to control distribution of assets and side-step the probate court process.
The bottom line is this: none of these decisions are valid or enforceable if you don't have them written down and executed consistent with the laws of your state. And marriage, alone, is not a binding reason for you to be able to make decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated.
Call our office and schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss setting up a plan for your children's benefit. Don't put this critical conversation off any longer, as life can change in the blink of an eye. We offer virtual, in-home, and/or evening appointments upon request, to meet your busy schedules.