As a new member of the “New Mommy Club,” I’ve noticed something kind of odd.
Honestly, I’ve noticed a lot of peculiar things but one in particular is relevant here.
Bringing a child into the world automatically normalizes conversations about death.
Maybe it’s just my friends and me – but lately we’ve spoken more than ever about the importance of setting up our affairs in the event that something should happen to us and our spouse/significant other.
I cannot stop thinking about the practical reality of caring for another human who is completely and totally dependent upon me and what would happen to my daughter should something unexpected happen to me.
I’d be doing my baby and our families a disservice if I didn’t think about such things.
As parents of minor children, there are concerns specific to our situation.
Particularly, naming a guardian for our minor children.
There are important matters to think through when choosing a guardian for your child, such as:
- Is the proposed guardian willing to serve? (This is a big one!)
- Does the proposed guardian share a similar childrearing philosophy as you do?
- What about religious/educational/social/moral views?
- Think beyond the obvious choices! Extended family/friends can make great choices.
- Would the proposed guardian’s location allow your child to remain in his/her community?
- Who will love your child as much as you do?
Age is also an important consideration. While grandparents may be an obvious choice, they do not always make the most sensible guardians if they are very elderly or have health issues that limit their ability to care for a small child. Though don’t rule out grandparents either if they are the best choice in your situation.
Other factors that seem important may end up being less so; such as financial ability.
You can ensure that enough money is set aside to support your children until they’re at least 18 by purchasing a life insurance policy and/or earmarking additional assets for their care.
Another wise move is to name a backup guardian, or even two, in the event that your first choice is unable/unwilling to serve – called a “standby” or back-up guardian.
It is easy to put decisions such as this on the back burner because it is such a difficult thought to entertain; however, the truth is – unforeseen events happen.
The circumstances that arise when no guardian is named can be disturbing.
The court will select from those parties available and desiring to raise your child.
The individual selected may not necessarily be the same person you would have named.
If you have relatives you wouldn’t want raising your kids, you should document your wishes in a confidential letter that will only be presented if your guardianship choices are challenged.
Confirming your choice of guardian in writing will ensure that a judge has proof of your wishes.
However, designating preneed guardians for your child is not as simple as writing your choice down on a piece of paper.
The Florida Statutes provide detailed instructions for naming a preneed guardian for a minor child – including (among other things) the requisite information that must be set forth in the document and that it be signed in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses present at the same time.
Amanda “Not Being Morbid, Just Practical” Lynch Elliott
P.S. Save the date for our first group estate planning workshop for new moms on Friday, May 3rd at Noon at our office. You'll leave with a complete, simple "starter" estate plan, including naming guardians for your kids. Check back for more details to follow.