Did you know that according to South Florida Parenting, 69% of parents have not named legal guardians for their kids in case something happens to them?
Parents fail to nominate guardians for many reasons. Some don’t know they need to. Some don’t because it is difficult to think about not being there for your kids. Some don’t because it’s a source of conflict between couples and their family members. Of the people who do nominate a legal guardian for their kids (most commonly through a will), many of them fall into the trap of making one of these 5 common mistakes.
1. Named a couple to act as guardians without indicating what should happen if the couple broke up or one of the partners in the couple died. Consider all the possible circumstances that could arise between now and when the couple you choose could be acting as guardians for your kids. Otherwise, your kids could end up in the care of someone you wouldn’t really want or someone who would not be able to take care of them as well as you wish.
2. Only named one possible guardian. What if something happens to your first choice? Or your second choice for that matter? At a minimum you should have at least two nominations, but to be safe it would be good to have three or four.
3. Considered financial resources when deciding who should raise the children. It is your responsibility to make sure there would be enough money to support your kids until they are at least eighteen. Also, your guardians do not have to (and often should not) be financial decision makers for your kids. The greatest consideration in choosing a guardian should be who would love and care for your kids as you would.
4. Only have a will, which means the Court will handle their money. Nominating guardians for your kids is not enough by itself. If your will states that your property passes outright to your kids, and any of your kids is under eighteen when they receive the property, then the Court will place your assets in a guardianship estate for your kids. When they turn eighteen whatever property is left is given to them outright. Remember minors cannot inherit money in their names outright!
5. Did not exclude anyone who might challenge their guardian decisions. Your children could end up with people you never wanted to care for them. If you have relatives who you know you would not want to be guardians for your kids, you should document your wishes in a confidential letter that could be brought forward if they threaten to go to court to challenge your guardianship nomination.
BONUS: 6. Only named guardians for the long-term and did not make any arrangements for the short term if they were in an accident. What would happen in those immediate hours until your permanent guardians could arrive? Would your babysitter know who to call? You should always provide your babysitter with a list of temporary guardians to contact if anything were to happen, and you should give those temporary guardians legal authority to take care of your kids.
If you are one of the many South Florida parents who has made one of these six common mistakes in naming a guardian, or if you’ve never named a guardian at all, don’t beat yourself up over it. If you’re reading this article, you still have time to make the right decision for your family to ensure that your kids are loved, cared for, and raised exactly how you would want them to be.
Take action and nominate guardians for your kids today. Call us, your Coral Gables Estate Planning law firm, at 305-707-7126 and ask for Jackie to schedule an appointment.