As we head into the third year of the pandemic, we are coming to terms with just how fragile our lives and health really are. If you haven’t gotten sick yourself, it’s almost certain you know someone who has, and many of us even know of one or more individuals who have died in the past two years.
Although serious illness and death are something we are always at risk for—and should plan for—the pandemic has forced many of us to face our own mortality like no other event in recent memory. Some of those worst-case scenarios we thought would never happen now seem much more likely, and for some people, those unthinkable situations have even become reality.
Understanding the Risks
Yet even if you manage to avoid becoming sick right now, the fact remains that we are all vulnerable to serious illness or injury, regardless of how young or healthy you are. And if you are a parent, one of the most frightening aspects of that reality is knowing that should something happen to you, your children would be left without you to care for them, whether only for a temporary period or permanently.
With this in mind, consider the following scenario: You and your spouse are out to dinner, and your kids are at home with the babysitter. On your way home, you get into a car accident. When you fail to make it home on time, the babysitter calls you repeatedly, but when no one answers, she calls the police.
The police arrive and find your kids with the babysitter, who offers to stay with the children until a relative can be found to take them. But because the babysitter doesn’t have the legal authority to care for the children—even temporarily—the police have no choice but to call Child Welfare Services. The authorities will take your children into custody until they can locate and/or appoint the proper guardian.
This is the case even if you have friends or family living nearby who are willing to care for the children. If you haven’t left proper legal documentation, the authorities have no option but to call Child Welfare Services. You must give the authorities a legal basis for keeping your children with the friends or family you designate.
What’s more, your kids are still at risk of being taken by the authorities even if you’ve named legal guardians for them in your will. That’s because your will only becomes operative in the event of your death, so if you are incapacitated by an accident or illness, your will would be ineffective.
And, perhaps the guardians you named in your will live far from your home, so it would take them several days to get there anyway. If you haven’t made legally-binding arrangements for the immediate care of your children, it’s highly likely that they will be placed with Child Welfare Services, and eventually foster care, until those guardians arrive.
And as a practical matter, does anyone even know where your will is located and how to access it?
Most Guardianships are Lacking
These are just a few of the many scenarios that can cause your children to be taken into custody by strangers or placed with a family member you would never want caring for them. And sadly, we see this happen even to those parents who’ve worked with lawyers to name legal guardians for their children in their will, because most lawyers simply don’t know what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.
However, we offer a comprehensive system known as the Kids Protection Plan, which is included with every estate plan we prepare for families with minor children.
The Kids Protection Plan provides parents of minor children with a wide array of legal planning tools to make sure there is never a question about who will take care of their kids if they are in an accident or suffer some other life-threatening incident. The full Kids Protection Plan includes all of the following:
Legal documents to name short-term guardians, who can be there immediately for your children, so they will never be taken into the care of strangers or anyone you wouldn’t want. Not even for a moment.
Letters to the people you name as short-term guardians, so the people you have named will know just what to do if called upon.
Instructions to everyone who takes care of your kids as to exactly what to do if you are in an accident, so there’s never any question about what to do or who to call.
Legal documents to name long-term guardians, who will raise your children just as you would, so there is no family feuding over your children.
Letters to your long-term guardians, letting them know exactly what to do if called upon.
Instructions and guidelines for your long-term guardians on how you want your kids to be raised to ensure your kids are raised with your values, insights, stories, and experience.
Medical powers of attorney for your minor children, so the next time they travel without you or you travel without them, you know they will get the medical care they need.
A custom, personalized I.D. card for your wallet stating that you have minor children at home and who should be contacted if you are in an accident.
A Learning Experience
Although the pandemic is likely to go down as one of the most tragic periods of our lifetime, if it motivates more people to get serious about estate planning, it may end up having some lasting positive effects. On that note, if you are a parent of minor children and want to ensure that your kids will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what happens to you, meet with us.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That is why we offer a strategic planning session, during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a planning session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
Disclaimer: All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney trained to work with families on estate planning matters regarding your specific situation. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, and any users or any other party.