Who Will Raise My Children if I die?
Guardian nomination is topic you will cover during your estate planning process. As a father, this question haunts me. As an estate planning attorney, I cannot imagine a more important question to answer. Regardless of how difficult this topic may be, parents of minors have a duty to answer it. Too forward? Too mean? Perhaps, but statistics show nearly 70% of parents with minor children have no estate plan in place. (See, here) Which means, likely, no nomination of a guardian. Why? In my opinion, it boils down to one or more of these three barriers.
Talking about an untimely death is a common fear for many people. In our teens, 20’s, 30’s, and even into our 40’s and 50’s, many of us feel invincible. This feeling of invincibility makes it difficult to think about the ultimate ‘what if’ or ‘when’ in life. As such, this fear works as a major barrier to taking steps to protect our families. Whether it is the establishment of estate planning documents, the nomination of a guardian, or the purchase of life and/or disability insurance, our country is seeing a major decline in preparation.
Another, less discussed fear, is the fear of talking to an attorney. Many people only engage an attorney when something terrible has happened. The failing of a marriage, a criminal charge, or some personal tragedy. Others, may have no experience with attorneys. For them, they are left to their own imagination and the real life and fictional portrayals of attorneys in the media. This fear is easily overcome by finding an attorney you like. Check out online reviews, ask friends and family, or just pick up the phone. As with any professional, we are not all created equally.
“I haven’t gotten around to it” is the single most common phrase I hear when speaking with a potential estate planning client or group of individuals. Inherently we know estate planning is important. Instinctively we know our time on this planet is limited. Individually we see tragedy all around us. Yet, statistically most of us will live into our 70’s or 80’s, so why bother?
We bother because once we get over the fear that is holding us back, we all know a plan avoids greater tragedy. We bother because our children are our most important responsibility. We bother because if we choose to not bother, our children’s fate is left entirely up to a court system that is overburdened, costly, and has no knowledge of our family or its quirks. Implementing an estate plan is too easy to avoid. Nominating a guardian is too important to ‘get around to it.’
If I may be so bold, we live in a very selfish time. We need the newest phone, gadget, car, best vacation, immediately. Don’t believe me? Have you been on social media lately? What are the Jones’ up to? When is the last time someone you know posted about hiring a financial advisor? Completing an estate plan? Purchasing life insurance? Or celebrating what I call adulting?
I confess that I hate using the term selfishness, because the virtue of selfishness is a very powerful and positive one. It drives us to excellence, it empowers us to achieve great accomplishments, and it separates us as individuals. Unfortunately, the vice of selfishness is nearsightedness. Failing to consider, or being able to see, the entirety of our decisions causes us to seek immediate gratification rather than what is best for us in the future.
Which barrier is causing you to fail?
Personally, I am most hindered by selfishness, for both its vices and its virtues. It causes me to seek a better life for my family, to envision a great future, and to work tirelessly towards that future. Unfortunately, at times, it also causes me to make short-term decisions that are gratifying, but not necessarily part of our family’s overall goals. Identifying a barrier is the first step to making a better and more informed decision. This can be done in any aspect of life and I encourage you to consider ways to incorporate it into other decision-making aspects of your life.
So, who will raise my children if I die?I know, because I have an estate plan in place. Kelly and I have nominated guardians for our minor children just in case something should happen to both of us. This means we do not have to worry about family members fighting over custody of our children in the event of our death. We do not have to worry about “Crazy Aunt Sue” taking the children into her custody. We do not have to worry about “Uncle ‘Gambling Man’ Dan” managing their inheritance. We can rest assured that in the face of tragedy, our children will be well cared for and financially secure.
If, you cannot answer this question, speak with an estate planning attorney today. Contact us (636) 352-1222, or here. If not us, then ask your friends, family, and other advisors for a recommendation and follow-up. Some questions are too important to be left unanswered.