Justin Jeppesen: You Don't Have a Will to Name Guardians for Minor Children? The State of Idaho Will.

Idahoans typically think of estate planning as deciding how your assets should be distributed upon your death. Although this is wholly accurate, this is not always the main concern for parents with minor children.

For us, estate planning also allows us to decide who will raise our kids if we pass away while our kids are still minors.

For many of us, this is our biggest “What If” question. What if I were to pass away, who would raise my kids? Would my family fight over them? Who can afford the extra mouths to feed? Even worse, what if no one decided they wanted to raise my children?

Unfortunately, dying is not limited to people that have lived a long and full life. It can happen to anyone, at any time. In addition to the emotional loss, many times death proves to be a major organizational and financial hurdle for the family members left behind if you do not leave a detailed plan. If you do not have a Will the state will provide one for you, which we covered in this previous blog post.

The state of Idaho will decide who will get your assets if you die without a plan. For us parents of minor kids, more importantly, if we don’t create a plan Idaho will decide who will raise your minor children. That thought can be unnerving. Think about those people who are in your family. Is there someone that you absolutely know you would trust your children with? Would a judge for the state of Idaho, who does not know you, feel the same?

Many people also have family members, who on paper, look like a perfect fit. But, we know that we would never want our kids raised by them. There can be a multitude of reasons for our decision, but if we never legally voice that opinion, our decision is disregarded. Think about that.

Here are some key talking points if you decide you want to name Guardians for your children:

1.      Asking someone to be God-Parent means nothing legally without the proper documentation;

2.      Consider what factors are important to you that you would like to see in your Guardians, read this article on mistakes made while naming Guardians;

3.      Consider whether you like someone as a couple, or just one person as an individual as guardian. Consider how that dynamic would change if death or divorce were to occur;

4.      Don’t consider financial capability of a Guardian. You will take care of that. Even if you don’t have assets, term life insurance is generally very inexpensive. Be an adult, buy it;

5.      If the person(s) you want to raise your children are terrible managers of money, we can split those responsibilities up between Guardian of the child and Conservator of the child’s money, so please don’t consider financial capability of a potential Guardian;

6.      Do NOT feel obligated to “give” your children to anyone because you might hurt their feelings. You will be gone and you can rest assured your children are raised by those you feel will do the best job;

7.      Naming Guardians is the most effective way to stop a family feud before it arises. Families fight over children more than they fight over money;

8.      If you fail to name a Guardian, anyone in the world can apply for the position;

9.      If you fail to name a Guardian, anyone in the world can apply to be managers of your children’s inheritance;

10.  If you fail to name a Guardian and your child is 14 years old, the judge will heavily lean on that child’s preference for Guardian (Now re-read #7, scary thought); and

11.  These documents are private until you pass away. This means no one has a right to read them, so you do not have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.