From the desk of Darlynn Morgan, Orange County Estate Planning Lawyer

One of the most common complaints I hear from parents who have not yet chosen guardians to care for their minor children is that they simply can’t decide who is the best person to raise their kids if something tragic happens to them.

And while it’s great to put a lot of thought into who you would want to raise your kids if something happened to you, indecision, and ultimately inaction, is a very dangerous place to be as a parent with small kids at home.

So if you are currently in that place of indecision right now, I want to remind you that SOMEONE will determine what happens to your kids if you and/or your spouse are in an accident—and that person might as well be you!  If it’s not, the person who will ultimately make that decision is a judge who knows nothing about you, your family or what truly is in the best interest of your children.

So to avoid having a judge make life-changing decisions on your child’s behalf, I would like to share 4 easy steps that will help you finally take action and choose the right guardians for your kids:

  1. Grab a piece of paper and brainstorm all the people who could possibly raise your kids if you were killed or incapacitated in an accident. Don’t limit your choices to family either. Think outside the box and write down everyone who even remotely fits the bill.
  2. Next, on that same sheet of paper, create a column of people you would NEVER want to raise your kids if something happened to you.  You’ll need to tell the court who you DON’T want raising your kids so they can protect your family should that named individual (s) contest your wishes and seek custody of your kids following your death or incapacity.
  3. Third, consider your values.  Make a third column and write down what is important to you and/or your spouse.  Do you value education?  Religious or spiritual training? The ability to live in a certain community?  Being raised in a 2 parent family?  Whatever your values may be, write them down, prioritize them and eventually rank the top 3.
  4. Finally, I want you to match the people in column 1 to your top values in column 3.  This will give you a clear picture of who you can trust to raise your children with the values you hold near and dear to your heart.

And last, but not least, the most important step is to legally document your choices so there’s no question about who you want to raise your kids if something happens to you!

Of course if you still need help naming guardians for your kids—or you’d further like to create a comprehensive estate plan that will ensure your children are protected physically and financially should something happen to you and/or your spouse, give our Orange County Estate Planning office a call at 949-260-1400 to schedule a no-charge Family Wealth Planning Session (normally $750 value) with the mention of this article.  These appointments are limited to 10 per month so call today!