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How to Plan for the Unexpected—Part 2

November 6, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

kids-on-track

 

Annie Babbitt, guest contributor

In the first part of this essay, we discussed how to create and legalize a will. Now let’s move on to the harder task of choosing a guardian and caring for your child in case of unexpected death of you and/or your spouse.

 

Choosing Guardianship

Do not assume that your spouse will automatically gain guardianship over your children when you pass away. If there is no guardian named then anyone can put his or her name forward to be considered. While your spouse has a very high chance of being chosen, it is not a guarantee. State your spouse specifically as guardian, then choose one or two alternatives in case your spouse is unable or unwilling to care for the children, or passes the same time as you.

If you have strong feelings against your children’s other parent having guardianship, be sure to state exactly why in your will, with examples and reasons. The judge will consider all information available before making a final decision.

Thinking about someone else having to raise your children can be very tough and emotional. However, it does need to be given a lot of thought before a decision can be made. Here are some questions to consider when choosing a guardian for your children.

  • Is there someone your children are already close to and comfortable with?
  • Who is financially, physically, and emotionally responsible and stable enough to care for your children?
  • Will this person have the time and energy to give your children the care they need?
  • Does this person have children already, and would your children fit in or get lost in the shuffle?
  • Would your children have to move far away, and would that cause more problems?
  • Does this person have the same parenting style, values, and religious and educational beliefs that you do?
  • Should your children be kept together, or would it be better to name a separate guardian for each child? Separate guardians may be good for children who are far apart in age, for children who have special needs, or if they have special attachments to different people.
  • Should you name one guardian until your child is a certain age, then a different guardian after that? A switch like this can be difficult on a child though, so keep that in mind when considering this option.

 

Your Child

Having one or both parents pass away will be very hard on your child, and the more they know the better they will be able to handle it. If the death is known to be coming, say from a sickness, talk your child through each stage and explain in terms they understand what is going on. If it is sudden, make sure the person caring for your child will give them concrete answers, and be able to answer questions as the child ages and is able to understand more.

Make sure children know who will take care of them in case both parents are gone. Consider writing a letter for your children to have in case something happens, like this blog mom did. Tell them reasons you love them, reassure them, let them know they will be taken care of, give advice, and comfort them.

 

Final Details

Once your will is finalized place it in a safe spot, like a locked filing cabinet, and tell your executor and a couple other trusted friends and family members where it is located. Some banks have very strict rules about who can access safety deposit boxes, so those may cause more hassle than they’re worth if your spouse or executer cannot access your will.

Make sure someone has official permission to pick up your children from school or daycare in case something happens to you and your spouse, and consider naming someone as temporary guardian to care for your children until a judge has named the official guardian.

Once you have your will put together it is a good idea to have it looked over by a professional. This makes sure you have everything you need to make it official, that you have not missed anything, and gives you a chance to ask any questions you may have. Some law firms will offer a 30 minute consulting session, and while finding a lawyer in your area may sound intimidating, it is as simple as searching online for “Ottawa law firm,” or something similar, then making a phone call for what services they offer.

The peace of mind you gain from having a will in place, and a professional reassuring you all will be well for your children if you and/or your spouse pass away, is well worth the money and time it costs.

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Annie Babbitt writes about her interest in current events, political science and philosophy. Annie loves helping promote change and being an advocate for those in need.

How to Plan for the Unexpected—Part 1

November 1, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

emergency

 

Annie Babbitt, guest contributor

As a parent, you have made the promise to take care of your children until they can take care of themselves, and sometimes for a bit longer. But what happens to your children when the unthinkable happens and you and/or your spouse die unexpectedly? It isn’t the most pleasant topic to think about, and I know you’d much rather be reading about tips for cute Halloween decorations or a new chicken recipe. But planning ahead for the unexpected is the best way to make sure your children are cared for—even after you are no longer able to.

 

What is a Will?

A will is the easiest and most important thing you can put into place as a parent to be sure your child is taken care of after you’re gone. A will sets out in plain terms who you would like to become guardian of your child and to whom your assets go. Many assume that the nearest relative will become guardian of the children, but without a will any friend or family member can put themselves up for candidacy, leaving the judge to choose among them.

Do not confuse estate planning with a will. Estate planning includes a will, but that is only one part of the process. It also includes growing your assets and finances while you are still alive, as well as what happens after death. They are very beneficial, but require meeting with various professionals. A will is much simpler to create.

 

Creating a Will

You do not need a lawyer to create a will, but it will take some time and probably a little money. There are guides and resources online or at the library that will give you something to follow. Here is a basic list of things to write in your will.

  • Pick someone close to you and your family to be your will’s executer after your death. This can be any family member, friend, or a professional like a lawyer or bank. This person will be in charge of making sure your will is carried out and will take care of any paperwork. Make sure to ask them if they are willing before you make it official though!
  • Make a complete list of all your property, including bank accounts, real estate, investments, and life insurance.
  • Decide who you want to inherit what, and when. For instance, if you want your daughter to have your grandmother’s necklace, but not until she is 18, then clearly state this.
  • Choose someone to be the guardian of your children, and then pick one or two alternate guardians just in case the first choice is unable to take the job, or chooses not to. Then decide whether you want the guardian to also be in charge of the assets you leave your children or if you would like someone else to fulfill that role.
  • Consider writing a letter specifying how you would like your children raised—how you want them to be educated, what religious beliefs and values you think are important. Also, specify what you would like your funeral arrangements to be, etc., and update the letter every few years.
  • Be sure to name your spouse as sole beneficiary, otherwise the court may split your property between your spouse and children and assign a state officer to control your children’s portion until they are 18. Naming your spouse as sole beneficiary will allow him or her to use the entire portion of assets to raise your children. You can also name your children as sole beneficiaries in case you and your spouse pass away at the same time.
  • Name a trustee to manage the property passed on to your children. The trustee can also be the guardian, or you can name two different people.

 

Legalizing a Will

To make a will legal it must be typed or computer-produced (handwritten wills are only accepted in some states), it must say in the document that it is your will, and it must be dated and signed. You must sign the will in view of two (some states require three) witnesses, and these witnesses must also sign and date the will confirming that you did this of your own free will and that it is the official will.

Some states require a will to be notarized, so be sure to check if your state does.

Stay tuned for part two of this article, which will discuss choosing a guardian for your child, and making sure all the details are in order.

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Annie Babbitt writes about her interest in current events, political science and philosophy. Annie loves helping promote change and being an advocate for those in need.