Probably every parent who has watched the news lately has felt the heartbreak over what’s happening to immigrant families at the border due to the Trump administration’s immigration regulations.
As you likely know, the administration's new “zero-tolerance” policy has led to the separation of more than 2,300 children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between May and June 2018 alone.
Putting politics aside, with horror stories of toddlers being ripped from their mothers’ arms and audio recordings of children crying and begging for their parents, we imagine it would be hard for anyone with their own kids not to be disturbed.
What’s more, perhaps these events have got you thinking about how it would be for your children to be taken into the custody of strangers. And if not, let this be the moment you willingly feel the fear and decide to use your privilege of being able to make choices on behalf of your children to ensure their well-being and care by the people you want no matter what happens.
It can happen to your family
Even though most people think that something like that could never happen to their family, they’re totally wrong. While your kids almost certainly won’t be taken into custody by U.S. border agents, your children could be taken into the care of strangers if something happens to you—even if your family or friends are on the scene.
But you can do something to protect your children and ensure they’re always in the care of people you know, love, and trust. If you use this atrocity against families to take action on behalf of your own kids—instead of merely feeling numbness and paralysis over not knowing what to do—these events can inspire you to do the things you know you must in order to properly take care of your family.
Understand the risk
While it may seem like a long shot, the consequences are serious enough that you must consider the real possibility of what could happen and ensure you’ve taken the right actions to protect your loved ones. Let’s say you and your spouse have gone out to dinner together and left the kids with a babysitter. But on the way home, you’re in a car accident. The police will get to your house, find your children home with a babysitter, and have no choice but to take your kids into the care of the authorities (strangers) until they can figure out what to do.
This is the case even if you have friends or family living nearby. If you haven’t left proper legal documentation, the authorities have no option but to call child welfare services—that is, unless you’ve legally given them an alternative. This is true, for example, even if you have named godparents. You must give the authorities a legal basis for keeping your children with the close friends or family you designate.
Without your action, when the babysitter answers the door, she’s in complete shock and willing to stay with your kids while the authorities find a relative to take them. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the legal authority to care for the children—even temporarily—so the police have no choice but to call child welfare services. These authorities will take your children into custody until they can locate and/or appoint the proper guardian.
Alternatively, maybe you have plenty of family, who’d want to take custody of your children if something were to happen to you. Perhaps some of them even live close by, so the authorities could locate them easily. It may be that even more than one family member would want to take custody of your children (and the financial resources you’re leaving behind for them).
We’ve seen what happens when well-meaning family members—who think they’d be the best choice as caretaker for their young relatives—go to battle in the name of love. It isn’t pretty. In such a situation, it takes years of legal fighting, making lawyers wealthy, while the children are stuck in the middle. In almost every case, each side fighting for the care of the children feels certain they’re doing what the parents would’ve wanted and what’s best for the children.
Know your options and your responsibility
The sad thing is, this all can be completely (and very easily) prevented. However, to ensure your children are never taken into the care of strangers—or put in the middle of a family conflict—you must take action now. Please do not leave this to chance. You have the privilege to be able to guarantee that your children are never taken into the care of strangers—or into the care of anyone you would not choose—but you must take action now to exercise that privilege.
Perhaps you believe this could never happen to your family because your family would never fight over your children or because you’ve named close friends as godparents. But why take that risk, when it’s so easy to do the right thing by the people you love more than anything?
And if you think you’ve already done the right thing because you have a will that names legal guardians for your children, think again. We’ve found that in most cases, even parents who worked with a lawyer to name legal guardians have made at least one of six common mistakes that leave their children at risk.
These mistakes are made because unfortunately, most lawyers do not know what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.
If you’ve already created a will, we can help you identify whether you’ve made any of the six common mistakes that could leave your children at risk. If you have not yet taken any action, we can help you take the first steps and make the very best decisions for the people you love.
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's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve 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 Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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