Imagine being involved in a serious accident or suddenly dying without the authorities or medical personnel knowing that you have minor children waiting for you at home.

Now imagine your children waiting for hours upon hours feeling scared, confused and helpless while their babysitter or other caregiver scrambles to figure out what happened and why you never returned.

Even worse, imagine social services removing your children from their home during this devastating time because they can’t find legal documentation that says who the children are permitted to stay with if something happens to you.

Scary thought, isn’t it?  Yet as a Cary wills and estates lawyer, I know that far too many area parents set themselves up for this devastating situation by not having the right emergency plans in place should the unthinkable occur.

Fortunately, there are 3 easy steps you can take right now to make sure your children are protected if something happens to you. They are as follows:

  1. Legally document your choice of guardians– This is obviously the most important step in making sure your children are cared for by the people you want, in a way you want, if something happens to you.  In addition to naming someone who can take care of your children on a long-term basis, you’ll also want to name short-term guardians who can immediately show up and support your children if the unthinkable happens.  Without such documentation in place, the authorities will have no choice but to place your children temporarily into the care of social services until a judge can make this decision on your behalf.
  2. Carry a Guardianship Card in Your Wallet- This is such an easy, yet commonly overlooked step that will spare your children from hours of worry and anxiety if something unexpectedly happens to you.   Essentially, you are going to create a card for your wallet that lets the police or medical personnel know that you have minor children at home.  It should include your address, phone number and any other pertinent information necessary to get in contact with your children.  Finally, the card should include your guardianship instructions so the authorities know exactly what to do if tragedy strikes.
  3. Leave detailed instructions with schools, babysitters and neighbors– Once you legally document your choice of guardians, it’s critical to leave such information with your child’s school, babysitter and even the next-door neighbors.  That way, if the police show up at your door, someone will have tangible, legal proof as to where you want your children should go in an emergency.

Yet again, it all starts by legally documenting your choice of guardians so someone has clear permission to care for your children if something unexpectedly happens to you and/or your spouse.

Want to learn more about how to protect your children and other free tools and resources for your family?  Request one of our free guides on protecting children.

If you have not yet documented your choice of legal guardians and are not quite sure how to start, I invite you to give our Cary estate planning office a call at (919)443-3035 to schedule a Vision Meeting to discuss your planning goals.

Jackie Bedard
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Attorney, Author, and Founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning
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