At Carolina Family Estate Planning, we are specially equipped to meet the unique planning needs of families with minor children so they can make sure that their children are fully protected.

Can You Relate to This Story as a Parent?

The day your child was born, you fell in love instantly. She was so helpless, cute, and dependent on you for everything. It seemed like you couldn't take your eyes away for even a minute.

For the first few days, you couldn't leave the baby alone for even a minute, but eventually, you started to find your new rhythm.  Your life has evolved to accommodate the baby, and before you know it, weeks and months have gone by. Your husband suggests a night out, just the two of you, so you can have a few hours alone.  After asking for recommendations from friends and neighbors, you call the nice girl from the down the street and make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant.

Date night arrives and you've carefully written out a page—okay more like two or three pages—of detailed instructions, which include your cell phone number, the restaurant where you'll be, your neighbor's phone number, how to warm the milk, how to test it, how to change diapers, favorite songs to sing, games to play, what to do if the baby coughs, cries, burps, starts to talk, crawl, walk, etcetera.

Your husband starts getting antsy, "We're going to be late! They're going to give our table to someone else!" Finally, now that you're running 15 minutes behind, he pulls you out the door to the car, and you risk the wrath of law enforcement as you speed to the restaurant...lightly ticked off at each other.

When you arrive, you only have one thing on your mind: call home and check on the baby. Your husband is still tense, "We're only going to be out for a couple hours, dear. She'll calls if she needs anything."

When you return home, a little earlier than planned, what do you find? That everything is completely fine, of course.

So What’s Wrong With This Story?

Most parents spend more time writing instructions to a babysitter when they're going out for a couple hours than they do writing instructions for raising their children if they might be gone forever. Ultimately, that's what estate planning comes down to—making instructions for completing the "raising the kids" job—the most important task a parent has.

Do you care about how your children will be raised? Of course you do! Have you left any instructions? Actual, clearly written instructions? Have you included the following?:

  • Your preferred parenting style?
  • How you prefer to discipline your child?
  • How they should be educated, and by whom?
  • What church they should attend?
  • What are you trying to teach them about money?
  • What friends and family members you want to be involved in their lives?
  • Others to whom your guardians can look for advice?

In addition to leaving instructions, do you have all of the documents you need to protect your child? We find that most parents don't, or if they do, they've made one of many common mistakes.

But What If the Unthinkable Occurred?

It's a situation no parent likes to think about, but what would happen if you didn't come home from your date?  If something happens to you, and your child is home with a babysitter or friend, the police may have no choice but to call in Child Protective Services and take your children into the hands of social services (that's foster care!) until they can figure out what to do. 

When the police arrive at your home, they would find your babysitter with your child. That babysitter, who is a minor, does not have any legal authority to stay with your child for an extended period of time. Neither does your friend or neighbor. And it may take hours or days for the police to determine who your relatives are and where they are. Not to mention travel time necessary for your relatives to come care for your children.

Without clear, legally documented instructions from you, the police may have to resort to calling Child Protective Services to care for your children until they can figure out what to do.

Then, if you haven't left clear instructions, a court would make the decision about who should raise your kids, and it's quite possible that the court would not choose the same person or people you would choose. Your children could be raised by someone you didn't choose, and in a way you don't agree with. 

What's a Children's Safeguard Plan? 

A Children's Safeguard Plan is a set of instructions, legal documents, medical authorizations, and emergency ID cards that you need to have if you have children at home who count on you for their well-being and care.

If anything does happen to you, your Children's Safeguard Plan will ensure that your children, your babysitter, and the police have clear instructions about who is authorized to care for your kids and how to contact them.

For their long-term care, the Children's Safeguard Plan will leave clear instructions about who you want (and do not want) to be the guardian of your children, and it will provide your selected guardian with detailed and clear instructions about how you would like your child to be raised, including your values, hopes, and dreams for your children.

If you have minor children, make sure you check out our free guide, on Children's Safeguard Planning, that covers the unique issues involved in estate planning when you have minor children, including naming guardians and protecting their future. Or, contact us to discuss the best way to get started at 919-443-3035 or via our contact form.

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