Protecting Your Children- You Will Need More than a Will or a Revocable Living Trust

Mary and Frank are the parents of five year old twins, Lucy and Evelyn, who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Recently, Mary’s friend Kate got into a car accident and died. This got Mary to thinking- what would happen if Lucy and Evelyn were in school and something like this happened to her or her husband, or both of them. Among the forms for Kindergarten, Mary filled out an emergency card.  Is that enough for them to know that Mary’s mom, Janet, would be the one to take the kids? If not, what could happen to their young children if they were no longer around?

If you’re a mom or dad with one or more children at home under the age of 18, a Child Protection Plan is the solution for your family. Without advance legal planning for the care of your children, if the unthinkable happens to you, here’s what could happen:

  • Your children could be placed into the care of Child Protective Services, even if you have a Will in place nominating a guardian. It would very likely only temporary, but do you want your children in the arms of strangers immediately after your death?
  • Your children could be put into the custody and care of someone you would never want, like that one family member who has good intentions, but you’d never want raising your kids.
  • A judge who doesn’t know you, or your family, will decide who will raise your kids, even if it’s the last person you would ever want;
  • Your family could get into a long, drawn out custody fight or there could be a challenge to the guardians you have designated;
  • Up to 5% of the value of your assets could be lost to court costs and other unnecessary fees through the probate process, a court process that can tie up your assets for years and deprive your kids of the resources they need to live comfortably, which can totally be avoided with advance legal planning;
  • There are unscrupulous people out there who make it their business to look at the public records to find out when 18 year olds are getting that inheritance check.

No part of the above situation is a position you want to put your kids in–especially during a time of grief!

The point of the Emergency Card you fill out for the school is to allow you to authorize certain people to pick up your children if you are not able to, for whatever reason. Plus it helps to ensure that your child is never sent home with a stranger “pretending” to be a close relative or a person who you do not want watching your kid.  This is obviously an important safeguard, but as a parent, you may be interested to know what the emergency card does NOT do.

The Emergency Card does not authorize someone to temporarily take custody of your children if a SERIOUS accident happens during the school day. Keep in mind that by law, the authorities can only leave your kids with their “legal guardian” or surviving parent if something happens to you. Fortunately, there are three easy steps you can take to make sure your kids stay protected if something tragic happens. They are:

1. Name short and long-term guardians for your minor children. Many parents have long-term guardians named in their will, but they have not legally documented who can care for their child in the short-term if the main guardian is out of town or is not immediately available to get your kids.

2. Tell your child’s school, babysitter or daycare provider about the plans you have in place. Provide them with a copy of your guardian nominations and let them know how they can get in touch with your guardians in the event of an emergency. This will help prevent social services from getting involved if the unthinkable happens.

3. Make sure the contacts on your school emergency card match the guardians you have legally named to care for your kids.

A Child Protection Plan is a set of legal documents that includes an Appointment of Temporary Guardian for someone you choose to take immediate custody of your children, a Parental Consent for Medical Treatment form, and a Medical Information form containing information on your child’s medical allergies and conditions, pediatrician information, health insurance information, immunization record, and medication list.

If you are in an accident, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are never turned over to Child Protective Services because the police don’t have clear instructions from you and, if the unthinkable happens, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are not turned over to Foster Care strangers chosen by a overburden social services system that doesn’t care about your wishes or who you would prefer to take custody of your children.

By planning in advance with a Child Protection Plan, you’ll rest easy knowing your child will always be cared for by the people YOU want if tragedy strikes.

At the Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C.,   we are specially equipped to meet the unique planning needs of families with minor children, to make sure their kids are totally protected.  We are attuned to the concerns of parents and counsel our clients on issues such as choosing a guardian, how to best provide for long-term expenses, and those related to blended families.  We are also one of a limited number of firms that offer protections such as the Child Protection Plan, which provides for the maximum protection of minor children. Please call us at 703-691-1888 to set up and appointment for a consultation.

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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