Who would care for your children should you become incapacitated in an accident or die unexpectedly from an illness or accident? Would your children live with their grandparents? If so, which set of grandparents? Where would they go to school? These are questions that you likely don’t want to consider right now because talking about death is never easy.
However, planning now for the unthinkable is an important part of being a parent. You need to protect your minor children and young adult children as much as possible for the day when you are no longer here to do so yourself. The compassionate and experienced team at Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC will be able to answer your questions and guide you through the process of estate planning.
What Should be Included When Planning for a Minor Child?
When you are putting together a plan for your minor child, the following should be included:
- Temporary guardianship: someone who can immediately take care of your children in an emergency so they do not wind up in the hands of an agency
- Permanent guardianship: someone who will become the child’s legal guardian should you die before they turn 18
- Instructions for the guardians: written instructions should be provided to temporary and permanent guardians so they know exactly how you want your children raised
- Powers of attorney: powers of attorney for care of a minor, which permits you to name an attorney-in-fact to make decisions regarding the care of your children when you are unable to do so
- Designation of health care surrogate: this provides the medical care your children need when they travel without you or you without them should the need arise
How to Choose a Guardian?
Choosing a guardian is not as easy as it seems. You need to take quite a bit into consideration when reviewing your options, including the following:
- The age of your children and the age of the potential guardian
- The potential guardian’s religious beliefs, values, and own parenting styles
- The stage of life your potential guardians are in (married, divorced, widowed, retired, working, young children of their own)
- Where the potential guardian lives
- The relationship the potential guardian has with your children (they don’t need to be a blood relative but there should be some sort of relationship)
- Willingness of the potential guardian (speak with them before making it legal)
- The potential guardian’s financial situation and personal responsibility
What Should be Included When Planning for a Young Adult?
As your children grow, you teach them new things related to their age. When they are 16, 17, or 18, you teach them how to drive. You teach them how to answer questions in an interview for a first job. When they reach 20 or older it’s time to discuss how they can protect themselves and their finances. This includes encouraging them to create a will and other legal documents, especially if they are moving closer to marriage. If you are helping your young adult to create his or her plan, some things you can consider together are the following:
- A durable power of attorney names a person to take care of financial and personal matters, (such as making sure car payments, student loans, insurance payments, etc.) when the young person is unconscious, or otherwise becomes mentally incapacitated.
- A durable power of attorney can also be created in a way to allow another person to act on his/her behalf while the young person is traveling or doing an internship, outside the country or just wants parents or someone else to act on his behalf while he/she is traveling, or on his/her behalf for another reason.
- Last will and testament: A last will and testament can usually be crafted in a simple way for a young adult before he/she has children. However, because it is often these same people that enjoy physically challenging and risky activities such as skydiving, mountain climbing, and traveling the world, it is important for them to have some type of plan in place! A simple will outlines what should occur in the tragic circumstance of something going terribly wrong and his or her death occurring.
- Whether young or old, everyone should designate who they trust to make healthcare decisions with a Medical Power of Attorney in the event he or she is unable to speak for himself or herself. This is especially true if the parents of a young adult are divorced! The last thing that should occur in the middle of a medical crisis is for two people to stand in the halls of the hospital and have conflict over who will make critical medical decisions for a severely injured adult child. This can easily be avoided by the young adult naming (appointing) a person he/she wants to make medical decisions. The young adult should name at least two people and place them in the order he prefers for them to serve. However, most young people name several people and place them in the order to serve. (Only one person can serve at a time though. This is the one role where a person cannot name two people to act together)
- Advance Directive (sometimes referred to as a “Living Will”): this document outlines the use of life-sustaining equipment and measures in the event a person becomes terminally ill. This document, along with the medical power of attorney, will provide detailed instructions as to how to proceed with care.
- Digital asset spreadsheet: It is usually a good idea to create a digital spreadsheet containing the website addresses, usernames, and passwords of all financial accounts, contact information, and/or photos, writings, essays, artwork, etc. on the phone and computer. Many mobile telephone and computer service providers have stated that unless the deceased person has specifically placed permission within a will or trust, saying he or she wishes to grant the representative access, the company will refuse to provide access for any reason. Therefore, if you do not want the last pictures, artwork, or writings to be lost, this permission and access should be included, whether the client is young or elderly, or between!
Contact Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC Today to Schedule a Consultation
Planning for the unthinkable is never easy, but it is vital to protecting your minor children and young adult children. The compassionate team at Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC can guide you through the process from Point A to Point B, answering your questions along the way, and ensuring that you do what is best for your children. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.