When The Unthinkable Happens…

When The Unthinkable Happens…

It’s “Date Night” Friday…

The one night a week when you and your spouse spend time together…talk about the week…have a nice leisurely dinner…just the two of you.

You’ve lined up a babysitter…

You left money for the pizza delivery guy and a list of contact numbers on the refrigerator door…right under the magnet you bought in Yosemite last summer…

You’ve got everything taken care of…

Except what happens to your children if the unthinkable happens and you never make it back home.

If you have minor children and you’re severely injured or worse in an accident, the police may have no choice but to place your children with Child Protective Services if they don’t have information or documentation indicating who you would want to care for your children.

Once the immediate situation has passed, your children could then be at the mercy of the “system”.  There is no way the State can know who would be the best choice as a guardian for your children.

So…what do you need to do?

First, Put Your Guardianship Wishes in Writing

Just telling your chosen guardian that you want them to take care of your children is not enough.  What you “said” is not legally sufficient and you could be placing your children at the mercy of the foster care system for a long period of time.  You need to have a plan in place, written instructions, and the proper legal documentation in order to ensure that your wishes are followed and that everyone knows what those wishes are.

Another misconception is that if you name a guardian in your Will, that’s all you have to do.

Wrong.

A guardianship provided for in a Will only takes effect after you die.  If you become incapacitated but are still alive, it means nothing.

Proper Documentation for Guardianship

A good, solid guardianship plan will allow you to choose guardians either on a permanent or temporary basis and leave instructions for those guardians so they know exactly what you want them to do and under what circumstances.

You need to have at least these documents in place at all times if you have minor children:

1.         Legal documentation naming a short term or temporary guardian in case you become incapacitated for a short period of time, or in the interim between your death and the time your permanent guardian can arrive.  The best option for this guardianship is someone close by that can take immediate custody of your children and keep them out of the court system.  Make sure that you talk to these individuals about your plans and that they are willing to serve as temporary guardians.  Have their names at the top of a contact list that is available immediately in the event you are not able to communicate.  And always make sure they have a copy of the documents naming them as temporary guardians.

2.         Legal documents naming permanent guardians.  The same information applies for this document as for temporary guardianship papers.  Make sure you talk to the people you select and that they have copies of these documents to provide to the court.

3.         Make sure you have written instructions for anyone taking care of your children so they know exactly what needs to be done if something happens to you.  Make sure they know who to call.  Even if you’re leaving your kids with the 16 year old kid next door to babysit on Friday night, make sure she or he knows what needs to be done if the worst happens.  And always have written instructions in place for the person or persons you choose as a guardian to tell them how you want your children to be raised.

4.         Always have a Medical Authorization and Power of Attorney for your children, especially if you’re sending them to Grandma’s on their own.  These documents will allow the person taking care of your children in your absence to make medical decisions that could be a matter of life and death.

Really makes you think, doesn’t it?

He said/She said will not hold up in court, so if that is the only plan you’ve made for your children if the unthinkable happens, you could be placing them at the mercy of the foster care system without even realizing it.

If all this has made you realize you would like to get your documents in order to make sure that your children and your property are taken care of, call us to schedule your Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session today.  We can identify what you need to do to plan for your family’s future and answer any questions you have about an effective estate plan.  Our Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session is normally $750, but  mention this article and you’ll have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call 770-425-6060 today and mention this article.

Two Legal Documents Every Adult Needs No Matter The Size of Your Bank Account

Two Legal Documents Every Adult Needs No Matter The Size of Your Bank Account

Teen_2  As of your 18th birthday, you became an adult in the eyes of the law.

Even though your kids may still act like teenagers (or you may feel like one), in the eyes of the government, turning 18 means you need to have legal documents in place in case of an accident.

Every adult should have in place an Advance Health Care Directive and a Financial Durable Power of Attorney.  Estate planning is not just for rich people.  These legal documents are important for everyone who loves their family.

If you don’t have these legal documents in place and something scary happens, it will make life a whole lot more difficult for the people you love.

An Advance Health Care Directive (also known as a living will) does two things:  first, it names the person you want making health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself and second, it lets that person know how you want them to be made.

This is important because if you are in the hospital and cannot communicate, you need someone to make decisions for you and you want them to make those decisions as you would want them made, without question.

If you don’t have this document in place, it could create a huge rift among your family as the people you love fight about what you would have wanted.

The important thing in this document is that the whoever you name is also given authority under the new (within the past three years) Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (aka HIPAA).

If your health care agent (the person named in your Advance Health Care Directive) is not designated as your agent under HIPAA, they will not be able to look at your medical records, which makes it mighty hard for them to make health care decisions for you.

By the way, if you have college age kids going off to college, you’ll want to get this in place for your kid.  Otherwise, when you call the school nurse to discuss your child’s illness, you may find no one can or will talk with you because they would violate HIPAA if they did.

We get frantic calls in our office at least once or twice each fall from parents looking for legal documents for their college-age kid for just this reason.

The second legal document you absolutely need to have in place as an adult is a Durable Power of Attorney. This document names someone to make financial and legal decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.

Beware of the one-page standard durable power of attorney you find on the internet where you just check off a list of applicable powers.  I’ve seen family members try to use those to access their loved ones assets and then not be able to because the form was too generic.

It’s important for your kids going off to college to have this in place too because if they are in an accident you are going to need to take over paying the bills and get access to bank accounts and make legal decisions.  But, you will have to go through a long and expensive court process if there’s not a signed Durable Power of Attorney in place.

It’s the same for you too. If you are in an accident, and you don’t have a Durable Power of Attorney in place,it will be difficult for your family to deal with things on your behalf.

So, regardless of the amount of money you have in the bank, get your Advance Health Care Directive (or living will) and your Durable Power of Attorney in place at the bare minimum.  Oh, and of course, if you have kids under 18 at home, get your comprehensive Kids Protection Plan in place too.

None of this has to do with money. It has to do with making life as easy as possible for the people you love.

SOURCE FOR POST: Family Wealth Matters by Alexis Martin Neely

Related Posts:

Do Your College Age Children Have Healthcare Directives? DO YOU?

Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care