Wow, we have had some great rain this year! A rarity in San Diego, but doesn’t it make all the hills so beautiful and green? I love to see all the beautiful green hills and wild flowers all over from all of our rain.
Anyway, I recently witnessed a conversation among friends that went something like this:
Friend One (Mother of three and professional) to Friend Two:
Kristina does wills and trusts, you know guardianship for your kids. Do you guys know who would raise your children if something happened to you both?
Friend Two: Yes, my parents would raise them.
Friend One: Where do your parents live?
Friend Two: Florida
Friend One: Have you documented this in a legal guardianship form?
Friend Two: No… but we’ve talked about it and would like my parents to raise our children.
Friend One: Well, you know that a conversation isn’t enforceable. If you two were to die tomorrow, then, Kristina, what would happen?
Me (Kristina): Well, first of all, without a short term plan in place, if something happens to you and your husband, then, the police would have to call Child Protective Services in and your children would be taken into protective custody. Then, your parents would have to petition the court to see if the court would appoint them as guardians. Any other family members would also have an opportunity to petition the court. And often times, even though we think that everyone would agree as to who the best people to rasie our children would be…. the two families end up fighting about it. Thousands of dollars could be spent on a legal battle, while your children are in limbo.
At a time when your children are suffering a traumatic situation, the trauma is further magnified by potential family fighting over who will care for your children. Ultimately, a judge will decide who should raise your children and it may not be the people that you would have chosen.
And this only relates to the care of your children — the guardians if you aren’t here. This doesn’t cover the money, or life insurance that you leave behind. Your assets will have to go through Probate.
We talk about the three evils of probate…. Time (slow process), Money (expensive, 5% of the value of your Estate — which includes the fair market value of your home, even a $500k home will result in approximately $25,000 in probate), and it’s public (for all the world to see and predators to prey on young people who inherit money).
Most people once they are educated about probate and how easy it is to avoid, see that it is well worth the effort.
But for parents, putting a plan in place is motivated primarily by the desire to make sure our precious children never spend one minute in the arms of strangers, CPS, foster care and the like.
Friend One: That’s why it’s important to get your legal documents in order…
Friend Two: I had no idea… Thanks for the information and let me know how to get this taken care of…
The sad truth is that most parents have no idea — either because they have not been educated, or they just aren’t aware of the consequences of doing nothing. Most people, armed with knowledge, will do what they can to protect their children and make sure they are provided for and protected in the event of a tragedy.
It’s easy to get your legal house in order, but don’t delay. While chances are nothing will happen to you, most parents I know don’t want to take the chance of being that small percentage of people…
There are other reasons to plan, but protecting our little people and making things easier for our loved ones is strong motivation if there ever was one!
As a San Diego attorney specializing in the needs of parents with minor children, I’m here to assist you with all your Estate Planning and guardianship needs.
To your family’s health, wealth, and prosperity,