Estate planning is a difficult process for everyone. Not only are you contemplating your own passing, you are trying to leave as detailed of a plan as possible for your loved ones you leave behind. As a parent of minor children, this idea is magnified because part of your planning includes appointing people to raise your child or children if you can no longer be there for them. For many of us, myself included, this is our biggest “What If” question. What if I die while my children are still young? 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 stepped up to raise my children because I never asked them while I was alive?
Unfortunately, dying is not reserved for people only after they have lived a long and full life. It can happen to anyone, at any time. Many times death proves to be a major hurdle for the family members left behind. This is especially true if you have not left a detailed plan of what YOU want to have happen after you die. If you do not have a Will the state will provides a plan for you, which we covered in this previous blog post. But, this plan is often one that is contested and leaves many families torn apart.
Idaho’s intestate estate laws and the probate judge from the county you lived in will decide who will get your assets after you die. For parents of small children, that same judge will decide who should raise your kids.
On the surface, that may not come across as a terrible idea. If you think about it with more care, that can be, and should be, an unnerving thought. For a moment, think about your family members. Is there someone that you absolutely know you would trust your children with? Would a judge, who does not know you or that person, feel the same way?
Many people also have family members, who on paper, look like a perfect fit. But, you know that you would never want your children raised by them. There can be a multitude of reasons for your decision, but if you never legally voice that opinion, your decision is disregarded. More accurately, your opinion does not exist. Think about that.
Here are some key talking points for you to consider when 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, you can split those responsibilities up between Guardian of the child and Conservator of the child’s money, so please don’t rule someone out solely due to their financial capability;
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 #8, scary thought); and
11. These documents are private until you pass away, no one has a right to read them, so you do not have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.
Jeppesen Law’s focus is on Estate Planning for Parents of Minor Children, we understand your needs and concerns. Work with us and we'll put together a plan that works for you and your loved ones. Call Jeppesen Law to schedule your Free Initial Consultation and we’ll make sure you’ve named the right people to raise your kids, documented it properly, and that your kids will never be taken care of by anyone you don’t want or taken out of your home even for a minute. 208-477-1785