Who will take care of my children if something happens to me and can I legally name that person in advance?
Often when both parents die unexpectedly at the same time there are two different sides of a family fighting over who will take custody of the child. Proper planning in advance can lessen or prevent the likelihood of this happening, prevent family arguments and can give parents the opportunity to decide for themselves who will care for their children if they are no longer able to.
In Florida the person who cares for a minor child is called a guardian. Florida law considers parents the natural guardians. If something happens to the parents of a child there will have to be someone who can legally make decisions for that child, both financially and personally. A parent, through proper estate planning, can and should choose the person or persons who they want to takeover these very important jobs.
Many times parents name one individual to care for their child and another (whether it be a family member, bank/trustee etc.) to manage their child’s money. Parents usually choose someone who they believe will raise their child with the same morals, values and beliefs as themselves. When choosing a person to manage their child’s money, they need to name an individual or entity who they believe will responsibly administer the funds in the way the parents would have. The person chosen to take care of the child’s money will be responsible for making financial distributions for child’s health, education, maintenance and support and the parents need to feel secure in the fact that the person will act responsibly with those funds.
Once you as the parents have decided who will take care of your child and your child’s money you need to sit down with those people to discuss what you are considering doing. Make sure that the people you choose for these jobs are willing and able to take on the duties. It can surprise someone when you ask them to raise your child if you are not able to. You will want to give that person time to absorb the idea of what you have asked of them and to make sure it is something they are willing and able to do. You need to name at least one person as a back-up in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to perform the duties for any reason. Make sure to review these choices on a yearly basis. If the person named has had a change in their life’s circumstances (e.g. divorce, marriage, illness, death) and could no longer raise your children or manage your child’s money, you should change your documents to name someone else.