I have returned from my holiday and am pleased to be back connecting with you, my readers. It was a wonderful trip and I feel so fortunate to have been able to celebrate in this special way.
Today I am going to tackle a difficult subject; that of ensuring that you have made all the arrangements necessary in case of the ultimate tragedy, the death of you and your spouse or partner. You need to talk to your lawyer and write a will which will clearly state your wishes. It’s difficult but essential. So let’s talk about wills and legal guardians for your kids.
Choosing a Legal Guardian
I happens all too often. A person dies and the fight over the estate begins. When there are children this is particularly disturbing. If both parents die, there is an immediate concern about the care of the children. Often, many relatives and friends around the children become emotionally involved and want to care for these kids. That is understandable but may not be in the best interests of the kids and may not represent the wishes of the parents in the face of such a tragedy.
Making a will forces us to face our deepest fear, which is our own mortality. We know we should leave a will, but sometimes find it hard to actually get down 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 and your spouse both die. It’s difficult but important.
In my own situation both of my parents died when I was a child. There were some struggles but our father had named a guardian in his will, and the will prevailed.
The most important consideration is determining who can best take over the job of parenting your children if the need arises. This is not a short-term commitment; the guardian is 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. 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 may contact the appropriate person. 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. It is important that the kids are able to stay connected with the family members in an ongoing basis.
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.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are also now in digital format. Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.
I am told the books are down to earth and common sense as well as easy to read. If you want some basic parenting tips and information these books are a good place to start.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.