It’s “Date Night” Friday…
The one night a week when you and your spouse spend time together…talk about the week…have a nice leisurely dinner…just the two of you.
You’ve lined up a babysitter…
You left money for the pizza delivery guy and a list of contact numbers on the refrigerator door…right under the magnet you bought in Yosemite last summer…
You’ve got everything taken care of…
Except what happens to your children if the unthinkable happens and you never make it back home.
If you have minor children and you’re severely injured or worse in an accident, the police may have no choice but to place your children with Child Protective Services if they don’t have information or documentation indicating who you would want to care for your children.
Once the immediate situation has passed, your children could then be at the mercy of the “system”. There is no way the State can know who would be the best choice as a guardian for your children.
So…what do you need to do?
First, Put Your Guardianship Wishes in Writing
Just telling your chosen guardian that you want them to take care of your children is not enough. What you “said” is not legally sufficient and you could be placing your children at the mercy of the foster care system for a long period of time. You need to have a plan in place, written instructions, and the proper legal documentation in order to ensure that your wishes are followed and that everyone knows what those wishes are.
Another misconception is that if you name a guardian in your Will, that’s all you have to do.
A guardianship provided for in a Will only takes effect after you die. If you become incapacitated but are still alive, it means nothing.
Proper Documentation for Guardianship
A good, solid guardianship plan will allow you to choose guardians either on a permanent or temporary basis and leave instructions for those guardians so they know exactly what you want them to do and under what circumstances.
You need to have at least these documents in place at all times if you have minor children:
1. Legal documentation naming a short term or temporary guardian in case you become incapacitated for a short period of time, or in the interim between your death and the time your permanent guardian can arrive. The best option for this guardianship is someone close by that can take immediate custody of your children and keep them out of the court system. Make sure that you talk to these individuals about your plans and that they are willing to serve as temporary guardians. Have their names at the top of a contact list that is available immediately in the event you are not able to communicate. And always make sure they have a copy of the documents naming them as temporary guardians.
2. Legal documents naming permanent guardians. The same information applies for this document as for temporary guardianship papers. Make sure you talk to the people you select and that they have copies of these documents to provide to the court.
3. Make sure you have written instructions for anyone taking care of your children so they know exactly what needs to be done if something happens to you. Make sure they know who to call. Even if you’re leaving your kids with the 16 year old kid next door to babysit on Friday night, make sure she or he knows what needs to be done if the worst happens. And always have written instructions in place for the person or persons you choose as a guardian to tell them how you want your children to be raised.
4. Always have a Medical Authorization and Power of Attorney for your children, especially if you’re sending them to Grandma’s on their own. These documents will allow the person taking care of your children in your absence to make medical decisions that could be a matter of life and death.
Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
He said/She said will not hold up in court, so if that is the only plan you’ve made for your children if the unthinkable happens, you could be placing them at the mercy of the foster care system without even realizing it.
If all this has made you realize you would like to get your documents in order to make sure that your children and your property are taken care of, call us to schedule your Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session today. We can identify what you need to do to plan for your family’s future and answer any questions you have about an effective estate plan. Our Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is normally $750, but mention this article and you’ll have a complete planning session with me at no charge. Call 770-425-6060 today and mention this article.
As a Marietta GA wills lawyer and a Cobb County divorce lawyer, I can’t stress enough how important it is for all parents to create a comprehensive plan that will protect their children should the unthinkable occur.
But what happens if you are divorced and can’t come to an agreement with your ex-spouse as to who should raise your kids if something happens to you? Should you go ahead and document your own guardianship wishes anyway? And just whose wishes would hold up in court?
In most cases, if your child’s biological parent is still living at the time of your death and you share custody, your children will be raised by the surviving parent, unless there is some clear reason why that should not happen.
There is nothing you can do about this, unless you can prove that the child’s biological parent is unfit to raise your child and make a compelling case as to why your guardianship nominations should be honored under the circumstances.
Examples of this might include a severe drug addiction, criminal past or a history of abuse.
However, if this is unlikely, the next best thing to do is name guardians anyway so that your wishes for the care of your children will be known and taken into consideration should your ex-spouse should also pass away before your kids reach the age of 18.
This is especially important in the event your ex-spouse did not legally document his or her guardianship wishes upon passing, as your wishes would then be given priority over, say, an unwilling step-parent (just think back to the Cinderella story for a chilling example of this).
Finally, if you are a single parent and have concerns not only about guardianship, but also concerning your ex-spouse handling any assets you would leave to your kids if you passed away first, I encourage you to meet with an Marietta Georgia wills lawyer right away so you can protect such funds and ensure they are used for your children’s care only in your absence.
If you need help getting started with this, please feel free to give our office a call at 770-425-6060 and request a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session. These sessions are normally $750, but you can come in free of charge with the mention of this article. Again, call 770-425-6060 to reserve your spot (limited to first 10 callers).
All parents should have a plan in place should an emergency strike during should hours, according to Marietta ProtectMyKidsPlan™ attorney, Steve Worrall. Preparations includes naming short-term guardians, listing the right people on school emergency cards and leaving detailed instructions with babysitters to avoid involvement with social services.
Marietta, GA – “Do you think a school emergency card is enough to protect your kids if something happens to you during school hours?” asks attorney Steve Worrall to a crowd of parents recently attending his popular ProtectMyKidsPlan™ Seminar in Marietta.
The majority of the room raise their hand yes. A few parents are undecided. Yet from a legal standpoint, all of them are wrong.
“Contrary to popular belief, a school emergency card will not protect your children from spending time in the hands of social services if something tragic happens to you, “says Worrall. “The emergency card only gives named contacts permission to pick your kid up if they are sick, not take short-term custody of them if one or both parents are killed or incapacitated in an accident,” he adds.
For this reason, experts such Worrall recommend parents create an emergency plan prior to going to back to school so there is no confusion or legal headaches should tragedy strike. According to Worrall, this plan can be created in 3 easy steps:
- Legally name short-term guardians for your kids– Short-term guardians are the people who have legal permission to care for your child until the surviving parent or long-term guardian can arrive. This should ultimately be someone who lives close by and one who will comfort your children in an emergency.
- Make sure your short-term guardians match those named in the school emergency card– In addition to listing friends and neighbors who can pick your child up from school if he or she gets sick, it’s equally important to list the full contact information of your short-term guardians for true emergencies. Without this information, your children would be placed temporarily in the custody of social services until the surviving parent or legal guardian can arrive.
- Make sure the babysitter knows what to do if you don’t return home– It’s extremely important that parents give their a.m. or p.m. babysitters detailed instructions on what to do and who to call if they don’t return home. In most cases, a babysitter will panic and turn to the police for help, again opening the door for social services to temporarily take custody of your kids until a long-term care provider can arrive.
“Creating a back-to-school emergency plan is so easy— and something that will greatly pay off if a parent is injured or killed during school hours,” Worrall says. “The first few hours after an emergency are the most painful for a child, so it’s important for parents to make sure their kids spend that time with people they love and trust, rather than in the arms of the state,” he adds.
For more information on Cobb County family law and family estate planning attorney, Steve Worrall, please visit call 770-425-6060 or fill out our contact form. For more information about or to attend a ProtectMyKidsPlan™ seminar, sign up here.