A few weeks ago I wrote a short blurb about Guardianship and it got a bit of attention.  Well, this time I’m going to be more blunt with you parents out there and say “If you have kids and haven’t created an estate plan, you trippin’ Yo and it’s time for you to get your stuff in order!”

That’s right I said it.    AND now I’m going to tell you how you’re trippin’ and what you need to do to get it together.   The most common reason given for not creating an estate plan is “I’m not rich so I don’t need a plan.”  While I don’t agree with that logic, I’ll let that pass for now and tell you why you need a plan to protect and provide for your kids.  You need to do this ASAP.

A God Parent is Not a Legal Guardian

If you’ve assumed a family member or your child’s godparent will automatically be able to step in if you die or become incapacitated, I have to tell you you’re wrong.  Flat out.  You need a written Guardianship Plan to make sure your kids are cared and provided for according to your wishes.  Your good intentions are not enough.

What is Guardianship? It is the legal authority granted by a court over a child and/or the child’s property.   While a child’s biological parent can step in and become the legal guardian, another family member or God parent cannot without the courts’ review and approval. If you die or become incapacitated without a will or trust that names your preferred guardian,  the court could appoint someone other than the person you want to raise your child.

There will be a court proceeding to determine who will be named the guardian of your child’s person and property. If your child is under the age of 18 and is named as the beneficiary of your insurance policy or other accounts, the court will not allow them to directly inherit the proceeds. The court will name a legal guardian of property to manage what you’ve left for your kids.  The guardian of the property will make periodic reports to the court on how they are managing the affairs of your child.

If you want some say who is named by the court to be the guardian of your child and any insurance policies or accounts you leave to them, you need a Guardianship Plan that outlines who you prefer to named the guardian.  To increase the likelihood the court will name your chosen person, you should include a statement or letter explaining why they qualified and provides any other detailed instructions you want to be carried out.

I know much of this probably comes as a surprise to you.  Let’s be honest, most of us don’t like thinking about this stuff.  But now that you know better, shouldn’t you do better?  Even if you think you don’t own enough property to include in an estate plan, don’t you want to make sure your kids are well cared for should something happen to you? Of course, I’m going to end this post with a shameless plug urging you to contact me for help with putting together a plan that protects your family and gives you some peace of mind.  Contact me at 312.868.0781 or by email at gmsmith@jamiilaw.com

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