As a new mother to a 16 month old, I never really thought about naming a guardian in a will. Because of my hectic schedule, a will was the last thing on my mind.
As a parent I am changing poopy diapers, making sure my child doesn’t starve, and bathing her after she smears food all over herself. Not only do I work, I am in school full-time as well. These are my priorities. Got to love them though!
Okay, so who really wants to think about death? Not me. I don’t want to “tempt fate.” Legal documents can be expensive and my family knows what I want. At least I think they do. What are the chances that something happens to both me and her father?
When I came across The Torch, it really make me think about the importance of planning for the unexpected. As I looked deep into the future of my child, I knew in my heart that anything can happen, no matter how well I plan. Life is full of surprises. I love my family but there are some people I don’t want my daughter to end up with.
I was surprised to learn that approximately 55 percent of American adults do not have a legal will, so I’m not alone. Not that that is a comforting thought. Unfortunately, if I die without a will, my child’s financial future will be at risk. More importantly, I cannot be sure who her guardian will be.
According to The American Pregnancy Association, the best time for parents to create a will is before they have a baby, but it’s too late for me, and many others, now. Or is it?
To help myself, and the other 55% of procrastinating parents out there (you know who you are!) here are the 3 things responsible parents do:
1. Select a guardian and put it writing
Deciding who would raise your child in your absence is one of the toughest decisions you’ll face as a parent. Nobody will ever be as good as you. Estate attorneys are skilled at helping you make these decisions. If you don’t have one, ask for a referral from friends or family. If you prefer to do it yourself, LegalZoom has some excellent resources. Here are some dos and don’ts to get you thinking.
Do choose someone with the same ethical and/or religious values as you
Do choose someone who is emotionally and financially responsible
Do choose someone who is in a desirable location in relation to the rest of the family
Do choose someone who is age appropriate
Do choose someone who can handle all of your children and their needs
Do choose someone who your children feel comfortable and safe with already
Do consider if that person has other children and how yours would fit into the family
Don’t think everyone knows what you want; they don’t
Don’t think a handwritten note or email will suffice
Don’t procrastinate because you don’t know who to choose
2. Equip the Guardian with essential information
What good is a name on a piece of paper if that person has no idea how to take care of your child? No need to share confidential details, just simple, yet vital, information that will help them navigate your life at a moment’s notice. For example:
Who to call
Where to find statement or bills for finances
- Child Support Agreements
- Day Care / School Tuition
- Savings Accounts
Where to find important documents
- Birth Certificates
- Social Security Cards
- Adoption Papers
Other special care instructions
- Important routines
3. Keep the information up to date
Your wishes and the information you shared about your children may change over time. Some people select a guardian when the child is a baby, then when they are teenagers the guardian may not be the right person anymore. These are the most common life events that may trigger a change:
- Children becoming teenagers
- Marriage (yours or your guardian’s)
- Separation or divorce (yours or your guardian’s)
- Having additional children
- The guardian becomes unable to handle the responsibility
- Moving to another state (you or your guardian)
I’m making the time to name guardians, share information and keep everything up to date and you should too. It’s what responsible parents do. If you don’t know where to start, TheTorch.com can help.
4 Dangerous Myths about choosing a Guardian
Top 10 Considerations when Naming a Guardian in Your Will
Estate planning for divorced parents with minor children