Expert Advice: 6 Common Mistakes When Naming Legal Guardians

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This is a topic most of us NEVER want to think about – what would happen to our children  if something were to happen to us?  Although it’s a terrible thought, we as parents have to take the steps to ensure our children would be cared for by the people WE would want. 

Peter Sahin, a San Juan Capistrano based attorney from the South County Law Group has some helpful tips on how to avoid common mistakes when naming the legal guardians of your children.  He writes…

6 Common Mistakes Most Parents (and their Lawyers!) Make When Naming Legal Guardians

The foundation of any estate plan for moms and dads with minor children (regardless of family assets) is naming legal guardians. Neglecting this planning can leave your children’s future in the hands of complete strangers. Making mistakes in the process can also lead to some easily avoided problems. This article covers the six common mistakes most parents (and yes, most Lawyers!) make when carrying out this critical planning.

1. Naming a couple to act as guardians, when you really don’t want both people to be potential guardians. It’s important to think about and address what should happen if the couple breaks up or one of the partners in the couple is unavailable to serve as guardian.

2. Only naming one possible guardian. It is best to name as many successor guardians as possible. If something happens to your first choice, you don’t want the court deciding who should raise your children.

3. Failing to consider financial resources. Your guardians do not have to (and often should not) be financial decision makers for your kids. However, it is best to think about whether the financial decision maker will work well with the guardians you have named. You should also evaluate and plan for the availability of resources to raise your children, which often will involve life insurance planning.

4. Only having a Will. With a Will based estate plan, the court will distribute your money in a manner that is expensive, lengthy, and totally public. There are many advantages to a Living Trust based plan instead. These include, among other things, the ability to protect your money from divorce and lawsuits.

5. Failing to exclude guardians where appropriate. In some cases, it’s not just about who you DO want raising your kids, but who you definitely DO NOT want stepping into that role. If you are concerned that someone you’d never want to care for your kids would challenge your guardian decisions, a “confidential exclusion of guardian” document should be completed.

6. Only naming guardians for the long-term. In addition to naming permanent guardians, you should also make arrangements for the short term in the event you are in an accident. It’s vital to plan for what would happen in those immediate hours until your permanent guardians can arrive. Providing nearby people who are both trusted and familiar to your children with instructions and temporary legal authority can prevent your children from being taken into custody by Child Protective Services at a time when they most need support.

Because the naming of legal guardians is so critically important for all moms and dads with minor children, we offer a free online resource that guides you through the process of creating a Kids Protection Plan® to name both permanent and temporary guardians. The link is located on the Free Resources page of our website at www.southcountylg.com. We also encourage you to take advantage of our free Family Wealth Planning Session offer to Tiny Oranges visitors (normally $750.00). Just call or e-mail Paula and mention this article to take advantage of this great offer…your loved ones will thank you!

                                           To your wealth, health, and happiness, 

                                           PETER SAHIN

San Juan Capistrano based attorney Peter Sahin, founder of the South County Law Group is a Personal Family Lawyer® who specializes in guiding families and small business owners to make the best legal and financial decisions over their lifetime.  Peter derives great satisfaction in giving back to his community and is a frequent speaker on important legal topics to both public and private groups throughout South Orange County. Visit www.southcountylg.com to register for an upcoming free workshop and to subscribe to his biweekly e-zine with great tips and content for Orange County moms and dads. You can also give our office a call to speak with Paula Woolley, our Client Services Director, about the workshop or any other questions you might have about our practice. Paula can be reached at 949.940.8887, or paula@southcountylg.com.

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