If you have children, you should also have a plan to care for them after you die. This aspect of estate planning can be more difficult than others since it means thinking about the unthinkable. You might be surprised, though, at the relief you'll feel after you've crossed this task off your list. Read on for some things to think about as you make estate plans that focus on your children.
The Other Parent Takes Over
If you are married to the other parent, they have every right to care for a minor-aged child after you pass away. If you are not married but are cohabiting with the parent, they have the same rights to the child as if you were married. No special provisions are needed as long as the child is natural-born or legally-adopted.
The Other Parent Is Not Custodial
If you are no longer in a relationship with the other parent, things can get tricky after death if you have reason to believe they should not have custody after you pass away. In most cases, the parent of the child becomes their caretaker after one parent dies, no matter what the custody arrangements dictated previously.
To override that, you should be prepared to make your wishes known. If you are certain that another person would provide a better upbringing for your child should you die, take these steps:
- Appoint a guardian for the child in your will.
- Explain your reasoning for bypassing the biological parent and include proof that shows the parent is not fit. That might include the custody order, child custody evaluation reports, police reports, and other proof.
To gain custody of the child, the other parent will have to contest the will and show proof why the provision appointing a guardian should be disregarded.
You Are a Single Parent
If the other parent is not suitable or available, it's vital that you name someone trustworthy to be a guardian for your child until they are 18 years old. Don't keep your plans to yourself – be sure to ask the guardian about caring for your child and ask their permission to name them in the will. Older children might not only want to be told about estate arrangements that apply to them but they may also want to have a say in the matter.
Once you have guardianship plans in place, don't forget to update your will every year or so. Relationships with guardians can change and updating the will can be accomplished easily with a phone call to your estate planning attorney.