When you die or if you become incapacitated, do you know who cares for your minor child? When you die, do you know who watches over the money available to raise your minor child? If you have not clarified and well-documented your choices, do you know who decides for you? If calamity hits you so you cannot pick up your minor child from day care, school or practice, what happens? Do the people closest to you know your wishes or how to find them?
One of your most critical duties as a parent is to document what should happen to your minor child when you die or if you become incapacitated. If either of those misfortunes fall on you, there is no chance to make your wishes known. You must make your choices before calamity strikes.
Accidents happen. Keep a list of people you want to care for your minor child if your whereabouts are unknown. If an accident happens to you, you want your child care professionals to have a list of people they can call to take temporary care of your child. Absent that list, police, protective services or some other arm of the state will decide who cares for your minor child until you can be located. If that location process finds you are deceased, then your child is already in the hands of the state sponsored care givers rather than persons you wanted. The list allows your minor child’s care givers to immediately locate the persons you want to care for your minor child temporarily until you can be found or guardianship can be established.
Your last will and testament nominates persons you want the probate court to appoint as the guardians for your minor child after you die. The guardians can be “of the person”, “of the estate”, or both. Unless a valid reason leads you to separate the money from the person caring for your child’s day-to-day needs, the guardianship of the person and estate is combined in one or two persons. If those persons cannot or will not serve as guardians, then you should have alternatives listed in your will. The probate court exercises sound and solemn judgment to determine what is in your child’s best interest when appointing guardians. Your selection of nominees for guardians is helpful to the court.
Document Your Wishes
Every parent of a minor child should contact an estate attorney to document your wishes if a personal, family catastrophe occurs. After calamity strikes, you have no more choice. If you have a minor child call an experienced estate attorney when possible and arrange for your minor child’s care after you are gone. Review those choices periodically and change them if circumstances change.