Who will care for my children if something happens to me?

Who will care for my children?If something happens to you while your children are young, who will care for them?
It takes time and energy to get your important records in order. Some of the most important—yet most difficult—steps are those regarding care for your minor children. The paperwork isn’t difficult, but the decisions may be hard. It’s hard to imagine your own death, especially while your children are young. It’s also hard to select a guardian; you can think of pros and cons to any choice. Then the issues are further compounded as you and your spouse come to agreement.

In addition, if you drive your children to school and lessons and medical appointments, you may have information about their care that others don’t have—unless you leave that information where it can be found when and if it’s needed.

Motivate yourself with the anticipation of peace of mind. Knowing that your wishes are in order, just in case something happens to you, can put to rest that low-rumbling, persistent concern.

First, the legal decisions. You should consider naming personal guardians and property managers for your children. A personal guardian will provide a home and oversee personal care for your child—food, medical care, education. A property manager will handle the child’s finances—with integrity and in the child’s best interests.

You can name the same or different people to assume the two roles. That is, you could name your sister, Mary, as both personal guardian, as well as property manager. Or, you could name Mary as personal guardian and your brother, Bob, as property manager.

Also, you can name the same or different people to care for each of your children. For example, if you’ve two children, they may be attached and comfortable with two different families. You might have strong reasons to name a different personal guardian for each child.

Naming Personal Guardians
You may want to avoid the whole issue, assuming that your spouse will take over if something happens to you. (It is rare that you’d die young and simultaneously.) The courts would, usually, assume that the surviving parent would continue to serve as guardian.

To ensure your plans are carried out, however, you should specify your choice of personal guardian (or guardians) in your will (the only legal means for naming a personal guardian). If you are married, you and your spouse should name the same personal guardian in each of your wills. Before you finalize your wills, review your wishes with the potential guardian to ensure he or she feels willing and able.

Naming Property Managers
There are several documents in which you can name property managers, including your will, your living trust, a life insurance policy, or your retirement account. As you make or update these documents, be certain your wishes are current and consistent.

If you are married, you and your spouse should agree on the choice of property managers and ensure your individual documents are consistent.

Avoid leaving assets directly to your minor children. If you do, the courts will appoint a property manager—again, usually the surviving spouse—but will also require periodic reporting of how the assets are being managed. Further, the court may impose limits (according to the laws of your state) on how funds are spent. You might not want to place this burden on your spouse or other trusted adult.

Here are some tips for avoiding this situation:

• You probably want to specify your spouse as property manager, with a second trusted adult as alternate manager.

• In your will, living trust, life insurance policy, or retirement account, identify the property, specify the minor beneficiaries, and name the property manager who will serve under your state’s Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (currently available in all states but South Carolina and Vermont).

• In your will or living trust, you can set out trusts for your children (either a child’s trust for each or a pot trust). You can specify property, minor beneficiaries, and property manager, and (unlike UTMA, just above) you can also specify the age of full asset distribution to the children.

• If you want to leave life insurance proceeds to your children, talk with your agent about naming minor beneficiaries and a property manager. You can do this either through UTMA (directly on the policy) or through trusts for your children (naming your will or living trust as beneficiary).

For more information on the law and your options, turn to Nolo’s Plan Your Estate by Denis Clifford (www.nolo.com).

Documenting Daily Care
If you’re suddenly incapacitated or die unexpectedly, others will step in to help with your young children. For each of your children, consider documenting his or her school, day care or periodic sitters, doctor, dentist, music teacher, sports coach, and so on. For each, provide contact information, type of care provided, and schedule—a valuable roadmap for those who may be helping.

 
Melanie Cullen is the author of Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To (Nolo), a workbook/CD-ROM for preparing and organizing your important records—for yourself and for your loved ones. She is a management consultant with TerraSys Consulting, Inc. and serves on the Projects@Work editorial board. She holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons/nyki m

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Comment by Dignity Memorial NC on April 19, 2010 at 4:04pm
Great post about an important topic. Including plans in your estate for your minor children is both responsible and necessary. Another helpful step to take when thinking about your estate is to also consider pre-planning your end-of-life services, as well. Since death can be untimely, having a plan set out for your family to execute when you pass will relieve them of the grief and burden of doing so themselves.
Comment by Ruth on October 17, 2009 at 6:27am
just testing
Comment by Joan M. Wheeler on August 25, 2009 at 11:10am
Interesting... Why didn't anyone suggest giving the youngest child up for adoption while the survivng spouse keeps the older kids who are still underage?

Shocked I brought up the topic? Don't be. Two people suggested just that very idea to my grieving father at the funeral of his young wife. They had 5 kids, and no one had any good suggestions to say, as you point out in this article.

The Catholic Priest said, "The baby needs two parents."

A woman approached my father and said, "I know a couple who will be happy to take your newborn."

Sounds horrific. And it is. I was relinquished to adoption because no one offered help to keep our family together.

This is adoption in America, folks.

Now that you think it is horrible to permanently split up a sibling group after those kids were half-orphaned, take a look at the expectations society places upon young single mothers who have just given birth. Unmarried mothers are routinely talked into giving away their babies to adoption. That's called an unselfish act.

My father was not selfish when he relinquished me to adoption. He was distraught, grief-stricken, yet his children, no, just the baby, was up for grabs. Imagine how the older children felt to know a baby was born and never came home. Their mother died, baby gone, and they were expected to carry on with life. Meanwhile, baby grew up totally unaware that she had siblings.

Parents- keep your kids together after the sudden death of one of you.

Legal guardianship is the only logical step if both parents die.
Comment by Rhossie on July 8, 2009 at 8:34pm
I feel you all but think about it this way that our creator feels us and he will do something about it very soon. He promises us at Revelation 21:1-4 that in the new world ,death will be no more, neither will pain nor out cry be anymore why/, because the former things have passed away.
You may wonder what will happen to our dead loved ones, he God again promises at John 5:28 All those in the memorial tomb (Grave) will hear his voice and come back to life. Our dead loved ones are resting they have no remembrance at all until god raises them Ecclesiastes 9:5&6. What a wonderful promise that is. Once we all get together again in Paradise then we will enjoy the new earth to the full. Isaiah 65:21-25. What a hope to keep us going!
Comment by dhinesh on June 18, 2009 at 12:18am
( Why do you unnecessarily worry?
Why are you afraid of anybody who can kill you? Soul is neither born nor does it die.)

Whatever happen is good.
What is happening is good.

What will happen is also good. ( Don't be sorry for the past, nor worry for the future. Present is good. )
What did you lose on which you are crying over?

What did you bring in, that you have lost?
What did you create that is destroyed?

( Neither did you bring in, that you made. All was made here: )
Whatever you saw, you saw it here. Whatever you gained, you had it from him (GOD).
You came with empty hand: you will go with empty hand.

Yesterday it belonged to someone else. Tomorrow it would belong to still someone else, what you have to-day,
it belonged to someone else yesterday.
Tomorrow it will belong to still someone else.
Don't be happy by dreaming as if it was yours. This happiness would be the cause of your sorrows.

Whatever you do, assign it to GOD- then sorrow will never be of yours.

http://www.gitainternational.com
Comment by CAREN JEAN on June 11, 2009 at 9:49am
I'm 43 years old and 3 years ago I lost my mother, who was my best friend, my inspiration, my love the queen of my life and also my other 6 siblings. Life seems strange without her, It's lonely, painful and confusing. If feels like a rug been pull off my feet. The realization of life and dealth is so real.
Shortly after loosing my mother I was diagnosed with breast Cancer. I have two boys and my greatest fear was who will raised them, who will care for them. I believe there is no other love like a love of a mother. Reading God's word has help me sleep now. And know this summer will be 3 years since the diagnose and now I feel that I must get my life back. I feel these 3 years has been the lowest and I feel the bondage that I've been in. Every day I pray for direction, wisdom and guidance from my heavenly father, I'm seeking him for all my answers, fears and hope. My hope is built on nothing but knowing that I will see my mother again and as far as my children I realize that each day is a gift and we must live life to the fullest each day. We don't have time to be even caught up worries or fears.... And to Fred God bless you and your story has touch my heart. I pray for healing for you and for you to feel and experience the joy of the lord 3 fold. May God bless and keep you in Jesus Name.
Comment by Fred on May 24, 2009 at 2:47pm
I was married to an Angel for over 52 years when all of a sudden she was taken fro me. Ech day i cry and evr6 mornign when i awake form waht little sleep I get I cry some more and then when bedtime comes I cry eveb nire for she ands I went to bed everynight at same tiem for over 52 wonderful years. i do not think anyone could have a person as much as i did my Wif.e she to me was a Saint and and Angle sent from Heaven of whom i will never forget. i do nto wish for another relationship for i ahve two wodneful Children and three great Grand children who I love and hold dear to my heart,.I knwo my Wife is nwo in heaven and each day I truly belvie that she speaks to me as she did over 52 years.
Comment by BRENDA on March 26, 2009 at 3:26am
TO LIVE WITH THE ONE WHO YOUR HEART WAS WITH ALL THE TIMESIS TO JUST HAVE THE MEMORIES OF THE FEELING THEY GAVE TO YOU ALSO.NO ARGUENING WITH THE KIDS TO..ALSO IN VOLVED TH GRAND KIDS MOSTLY.FOR THEY HAVE SOMEONE NO WILL HAVE OF THE LOVE ONE THAT GONE TO ANOTHER LIFE WITHOUT THEM ALSO..THERES ALLGODS CHIDRENS TO.SO REMEMBER THEM IN WHAT YOUR DOING TO.REMEMBER THE BEST FRIEND TO.FOR SHE OR HIM WAS SHARING SOMETHING SPECIAL WITH THEM ALSO..MAYBE THEY HAD A CRAFT OR SOMETHING THERE HEART WAS FOND OF THE PERSON TO MEMBER THEM WITH.MEMBER THE LOVE AND ALL THEY SHARED TO..THE BIBLE TELLS YOU TO SHARE ALL THINGS OUT TO..THEY'LL BE WITH THEM MEMORIES TO..JUST MEMBER THE GREAT THING WITH ALL OF YOU IN THAT PERSON WHOS GONE TO ANOTHER WORLD AND NEVER FORGET ANYTHING THATS SHARED WITH ALL TO..JUST STAY CLOSE TO THE ONES WHO MISSED BEING LOVED BY THAT PERSON GONE BUT NOT FOR LONG WILL GET TO SE IN HEAVEN THAT DAY.FOR GOD PROMISE THIS TO ALL HIS CHILDREN ALSO..THATS MOSTLY ALL I CAN SAY FOR MY TIME WILL BE COMMING ONE DAY WHEN GODS READY FOR ME TO..MAY I REST IN PEACE ALWAYS TO..

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