It’s a topic we want to avoid. What happens to the kids if something happens to us? You need to consider it and this month’s article will guide you on the road to taking this difficult step.
But first: What’s Going On with Parenting Today?
When you go to your local bookstore you can see row after row of parenting books? How do you choose? Well, if you are reading my newsletter and blogs odds are you would like my books. And if you like a great deal, the books are available for $10. Come and take a look.
You see in this note what is going on with Parenting Today. But for up-to-date news on activities and blogs, join me on twitter.
I have noticed and am thrilled that some of you are from Ottawa and the New England states. I am happy to let you know that I will be in Toronto, Ottawa and New England this Fall. Contact me and let me know whether you would like a professional development event, a Beyond Childcare experience or a parenting workshop. I will also be in Toronto at the end of November. Hopefully that date can work for some of you.
For my readers in these parts of the world, let’s talk. It’s a great deal for you because there will be no travel costs and I’d love to be able to take advantage of the fact that I am in your town and can offer you quality parenting information.
If you missed the Global National interview about children’s lingerie come to my YouTube channel and take a look.
Choosing a Legal Guardian
Making a will forces us to face our deepest fear. We know we should do it but sometimes find it hard to actually get to it.
When you are a parent you have an even greater challenge. In your will, you need to name a legal guardian for your children. You need to look tragedy right in the face and determine who will raise your kids if you die. It’s difficult but essential.
When I was planning this column I saw the word legal and realized that this was more than parenting advice. So I spoke with Maria Holman of the law firm, Lindsay Kenney. Together we have compiled these thoughts.
The most important consideration is who can take over the job of parenting your children if the need arises? This is not a short-term commitment; the guardians are taking over for the rest of their lives.
Often the first place we look is to our parents. While they may have been the world’s greatest parents and are now wonderful grandparents, do they have the energy, the health and the ability to actually begin parenting all over again?
When you are considering whom to ask, consider whether the legal guardian will also be the executor of your estate. (This is exactly why I needed to talk to a lawyer; that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me). If you choose two people, one for each job, make sure they each know about the other, each have a copy of the will and know how to contact your lawyer.
Once you’ve determined whom you’d like to ask it’s important to insist they take some time to consider your request. Bottom-line, anyone you care enough about to ask will automatically say yes. After all, they love you; they love your kids and of course will step up to the plate if needed.
But insist that they take the time to consider. Ask them to visualize raising your children starting tomorrow. Ask them to realistically reflect for a few days how their world would change if they were suddenly parenting your children for the rest of their lives. And be clear that if they say no, you will be fine with that. You’d rather they decline than say yes when they know they really couldn’t take on the extra responsibility of your children.
Identify who will be the first people to deal with the kids. Who is physically closest? That may be a neighbour or your parents but whoever it is should also know whom to contact. If your children are old enough they can handle this. Let them know where you keep your will and whom they should call in case of a tragedy. Kids should know who their legal guardians are so that if there is a need, they know there is someone there who is ready and willing to care for them. The really frightening thing for children is not knowing who will look after them.
There are all sorts of other issues you need to discuss. Where will they live? Will the guardian need to buy a larger house to include your children and if so how will that be financed?
If you choose a guardian who is not a relative, make sure that you have told your family members. The last thing the guardian and your children need is a legal fight for custody on top of the tragedy which has caused this situation.
Holman reminded me that there are other considerations that often get forgotten. Take a look at family heirlooms including photographs, art work, jewelry and the like and leave specific instructions on how to handle them so they can be saved until he child is old enough to want them and be able to care for them.
Another consideration is that of adoption. Do you want the guardians to be able to adopt your children? Is it okay if they have their name changed to that of the guardians?
Remember, if you don’t put your wishes down on paper you have no idea what the courts might decide for your children. Speak to a lawyer to make certain all the bases are covered. Ensure that you have done everything you can to protect your kids in case of your death. It’s difficult but necessary.
There are no right answers here, just important questions that need to be addressed.