Parents and Divorce: Protecting Your Kids in Case You Die

Protecting your children after your death is vital. Generally, if one parent dies, the other assumes full legal and physical custody without any issues. If both parents perish, a will can determine custody. What happens when a divorced parent passes away? 

Divorce can be messy. Not everyone has an amicable co-parenting situation. Sometimes divorced parents don’t share custody of children equally for safety reasons. Sometimes an absent parent is unable or unwilling to parent effectively. Sometimes an absent parent does not have the proper home or income to be a full time custodian. 

In the cases where an absent parent is not the ideal primary care giver, it may make sense to create documentation to legally support your custody wishes. It may also make sense to put fiscal parameters in place to support your children financially no matter who has physical custody. 

If you can’t support the idea of an ex having primary custody for valid reasons – not simply due to disliking them – you can make a guardian recommendation in your last will and testament. Be sure to list and provide evidence why you are naming the guardian and make sure your will is notarized and that the guardian has their own copy. If your decision is contested, your child may be appointed an attorney to represent them in a custody hearing. 

Often times a grandparent will be named as successor guardian. It is important to know that while grandparents are vital for the development and support of a child, there are no built-in grandparent rights. It is important that you take steps to name the people you desire to have access to your children in the event of your death and advocate for their relationship via your will. This will carry great weight with the court. 

You may also safeguard your assets and financial support for your children by naming a guardian or fiscal payee other than your ex-spouse to manage funds and make financial decisions on your behalf. Your attorney or financial planner will have information about how to set up a trust or other fiduciary protection. 

If you are divorced and do not have a positive relationship with your ex, it is important to safeguard your wishes and protect your child if you die. Take steps to secure their custody and financial stability so you can rest easy knowing they are well cared for.  

Protecting Dignity and Values During an Accident or Illness

Having a debilitating illness or injury can be devastating. Not only is your health fractured, your dignity can be in jeopardy too. Being sick subjects us to medical procedures that leave us feeling exposed physically and mentally. It can be hard to feel secure and in control of our person when we are being put through the medical gauntlet. 

Likewise, supporting someone who is going through tough medical issues can feel uncomfortable. Being exposed literally and figuratively to procedures and losing independence can be isolating and disrupting. Being able to protect dignity and values during an accident or illness is an important part of the process. 

Medical providers and first responders see people every day who are at their worst. They are providing care to people who are injured, sick, and sometimes dying. It can take a toll on them and they tend to compartmentalize their feelings so they can do tough work without showing emotion. This can adversely affect patients who often times feel like they don’t matter outside of being a body that needs medical attention. 

Sometimes the practical side of medicine collides with the intimate side of dignity. Finding the balance is important. Here are some reminders to help maintain dignity and keep your values when you are sick or have an accident. 

Remember: Communicate- You are in the driver’s seat of your care. Communicate your beliefs, preferences, and boundaries if you feel your dignity is being affected. Though some procedures and side affects of an illness may be undignified, you can manage to protect what little dignity is available. 

Remember: Advocate- If you are someone supporting someone else with an illness or injury, you can advocate for their dignity. Lead by example and make sure their feelings, values, and person are respected and protected under every circumstance. 

Remember: The golden rule- Being nice generally brings about compassion in others. Even if you are gravely ill or chronically sick you can control how you treat others. Being kind to medical providers and those supporting you will encourage them to be kind right back.

Having an accident or illness can render people helpless and put them in tough situations. It’s important to preserve dignity and hold to values even under these circumstances. There are simple things you can do to protect your dignity and that of those you love.   

Keeping Records – Preserving Vital Information for Future Generations

Services like are becoming very popular. Now more than ever people want to know where they came from and who their family members were. Archiving information is a great way to help future generations know about their relatives and therefore, more about themselves. 

Your life experiences from birth until death are filled with important milestones and anecdotal stories that are of interest to your family. Your children, grandchildren, and generations to come have an interest in what your life is like and what challenges and triumphs you had. Why not take the time to preserve these memories? 

There are a lot of ways to keep records for your family. Here are a few ideas you may want to consider:

Keep a binder with important records: You can organize a binder filled with copies or original documents that may come in handy for your heirs. Some ideas may include:

  • Birth certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Marriage licenses
  • Passports
  • Medical records
  • Military records 

Generally anything that can help your family clearly trace back lineage or vital statistics will be valuable for future generations. 

Keep diaries or journals: You may have been keeping a diary or journaling for a while. Consider collecting them and keeping them in one space so they can be easily found. Your stories, thoughts, and insights might be educational, entertaining, and help your family understand you like never before. 

Organize photos and videos: Your family photos and home video will surely be a treasure for those who love you and those who will hear about you in the future. Make sure your photos are labeled with the names of the people in the images and the dates and locations whenever possible. 

Keep a collection of keepsakes: If you enjoy writing, painting, or have any examples of your work, it will be a treasure for those who love you. Keep a selection of your work for your family to appreciate. 

Write a book or story: Writing an autobiography is an excellent way to share your life’s story and your thoughts about it. What a wonderful way to explain how you lived your life and the adventures you encountered along the way. Stories about your childhood, education, love life, children, and grandchildren will be invaluable for your family someday. Keeping family records not only makes common sense, it will warm the hearts of your family when they want to remember you. Archiving your family documents can help people with their own medical history and help generations to come feel connected to the past. The effort is well worth the joy this task will bring.

Housing Options When You Can’t Live at Home

Everyone wants to live out their days in their own home. It’s painful to think about being placed in an assisted living or dying in a hospital. The thought of leaving behind the comforts of home and losing independence is overwhelming. Sometimes staying at home simply isn’t an option. 

The biggest reason for needing outside care is safety. 

As we age, we may lose mental capacity or simply become frail and unable to manage our independence. We become at risk for falling or other injuries, which makes it too risky to be a home. Sometimes a medical event requires therapies to bounce back and regain mobility or other skills. Isolation is also a concern. Being alone too much can affect social skills and mental health. Being in an environment with peers and activities can prolong and enrich life. 

If you or someone you love is showing the signs that they can no longer live at home, it might be time to consider options. Here are some common options for housing when you can’t live at home. 

Retirement communities- Some retirement communities are single-family homes in a condensed geographic area. Others are apartments or combined housing units with centralized services. These communities are geared towards an active lifestyle but rely on members being relatively independent. If you have been living in a large home with high-maintenance it might be a next step to downsize to a retirement community. 

Assisted living communities- An assisted living community offers more services than a retirement community. This may include providing meals in a central location as well as housekeeping and other services. Assisted living communities may assist in shopping, doctors’ appointments, or social activities off site. Generally, members of an assisted living community are ambulatory and able to make informed decisions about their care. They are able to come and go from the community of their own free will. 

Skilled nursing facilities- A skilled nursing facility is staffed by nurses and other staff members to assist residents with daily living activities. They are generally dependent on staff for assistance in multiple areas of self care including, but not limited to, medication management, access to health care and help with bathing, dressing, and accessing activities. Residents tend to live in community with one another inside one general space such as a room, shared room, or small studio-type apartment. 

Dementia care facilities- These facilities are designed with safety and compassion in mind. These types of facilities have a larger staff to resident ratio and most residents rely on staff for assistance with every area of life. From toileting to accessing food and medication, a dementia care facility is helpful for residents who need full care outside of their home. 

If the time comes that you can no longer be at home, there are multiple options to support you or someone you love. Research the types of communities in your area and make sure your finances and plans are geared towards funding the option that best suits your needs.  

Protecting Guardianship of Your Children in the Event of Your Death

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.