Nobody likes to think about what would happen to their children if they were suddenly unable to care for them. Unfortunately, putting this painful scenario at the back of your mind can have long-lasting emotional and financial effects on your family—especially if the state ends up making crucial decisions for you.
It's no exaggeration to say that naming a guardian for your minor children may be the most important action you take in your estate plan. In fact, we believe so strongly in this issue that our law firm helps families to name guardians for their children free of charge.
Methods of Naming Guardians and the Effectiveness of Each
You may have already chosen a guardian or left instructions to a family member for your child's care after your passing. But are you sure you took enough precautions to place your children in the right hands? Consider the legal problems that may arise if your designation involves:
- Word-of-mouth. It is a good idea to tell the person you have chosen as the guardian that they may be asked to serve if something goes wrong. However, verbal actions such as asking the guardian to take the kids or having an "understanding" among your relatives about guardianship carries little weight in court. If your plans aren't in writing, the choice of who will raise your children belongs to the State of Florida—and not without significant legal expenses for your relatives.
- Naming a guardian in your will. If you have named someone to care for your minor children in your will, you have only taken the first step toward guardianship. This is because the terms of your will are only activated upon your death. If you go missing, are in an accident that leaves you in a coma, or are otherwise incapacitated, your children may still go to your next of kin instead of your chosen guardian.
- Outdated designations. As your children grow, your relationships with your loved ones may change or come to a natural end. The guardians you chose when your kids were born may have moved away, retired, or are no longer the ideal choice for raising your children.
Let Us Take the Stress Out of Establishing Guardianship in Florida
Every parent has unique concerns when it comes to the question of who will raise their children. As your trusted advisor, our law firm does not charge clients to nominate a trusted family member in a Pre-Need Guardian Declaration. This document exists outside of your will and tells the court whom you have chosen to take care of your minor children if you are incapacitated or pass away.
In addition to completing your guardianship nomination, we can help you protect your children with:
- Letters of Intent. After you have chosen someone to be the caregiver to your children, that person will need to know how you want the children brought up. A letter of intent is not a legally-binding document but a detailed description of your child(ren)'s personal histories, current needs, and your future goals for them. These letters are half instructions for the child's care, half guide for the caregiver on how to make difficult choices.
- Financial Protection. If your children will inherit significant assets upon your passing, their guardian may have control over their allowances and bank accounts. However, it is possible to appoint separate people to serve as guardians to a child's finances and a child's custody. We can help you create a trust that will provide for your children's futures but also give your guardian the needed funds to feed, clothe, and house them until they come of age.
- Sibling Unity. If you and your partner have children from a previous marriage, you may need to consider who will raise your blended family. Will your natural children and step-children be raised together, or will children be raised in different homes and placed with different guardians? We ask you the tough questions and game out every scenario, ensuring that your wishes will be respected even after you are no longer around to communicate them.
At Yolofsky Law, we don't just draft documents. Our estate planning team can help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, both for yourself and the people you love. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you articulate your wishes and legally protect your loved ones for years to come. Give us a call today to discuss your options.