No one wants to think about dying while their children are under the age of eighteen. The thought of not being there to care for them seems unfathomable. Better still, the thought of both parents being unavailable seems incomprehensible.
Most parents are young and starting out their married lives. They feel invincible and focused on starting their career, building up their assets, and creating a home for their families. They may have thought about life insurance, but not about custody needs.
If you die and your children are under age, someone will have to make the decision about where they will live. This can cause a lot of chaos and commotion between family members who may have a wide range of ideas about who will step in on your behalf. Additionally, the state or county you live in will have a say about the final decisions.
Protecting your kids isn’t just about naming who you want to succeed you as guardian, it is also the legal track that allows for a guardian to make legal decisions about your child’s medical and educational needs. Without a formal decision, this can take a long time to finalize.
Part of parenting is naming a legal guardian to care for your children in the event of your death or incapacity. Here are some tips to consider when making your choice:
Tip: Who is the child familiar with? Children at any age do better transitioning to live with someone they already know and have a positive relationship with. This means your cousin across America may not be the best guardian if they don’t have a relationship with your child.
Tip: Who is willing to step in? Be sure to ask someone if they are willing to step in as guardian for your child. Not everyone is able to make the adjustments necessary to expand their family and that’s ok.
Tip: Evaluate your decision over time. Things change and so do your kids. If you named your parents when your children were very small, they may not be the ideal candidates if your kids are now tweens or teens. Evaluate your nominations from time to time and be sure they are still a good fit.
Tip: Make sure you have provisions. You may want to consider naming your children successor beneficiaries on your insurance policies after your spouse in case you both perish. This will help insure there are proceeds that can be used for their well-being. Additionally, your children should be eligible for federal income through your social security benefits if you paid into the program. Make sure anyone you nominate knows to check into that funding stream as well.
Protect your children by naming a guardian for legal and physical custody if you pass away. It will make all the difference in how they manage the loss of their parent.