Make Sure Your Minor Children Are Cared for And Protected by People You Trust
It is an unavoidable fact that we are all vulnerable to serious illness or injury, regardless of our age. As a parent of minor children, one of the most frightening aspects of that reality is knowing that if something were to happen to you, your kids would be left without you to care for them, even if it is only for a temporary period. However, we find that most parents of minor children who come to us for estate planning services have not named legal guardians for their kids. We believe the reason for this is because most parents do not understand the importance of guardianship of a minor in Florida.
Naming legal guardians for your kids is critical to ensuring their safety and care if something should happen to you. In this week’s article we will discuss the consequences of not having a plan in place for the guardianship of a minor in Florida, as well as the documents and services we offer our clients to avoid these risks.
Understanding the Risks
Consider the following scenario: You and your spouse are out to dinner, and your kids are home with the babysitter. On your way home, you get into a car accident. When you fail to make it home on time, the babysitter calls the police when you and your spouse do not answer her calls.
When the police arrive, the babysitter offers to stay with the children until a relative can be found to care for them. Unfortunately, because the babysitter does not have the legal authority to care for your children – even temporarily – and does not know the names of other family members, the police have no choice but to call Child Protective Services (“CPS”) to take your kids into custody until a guardian can be located and/or appointed by a court.
Even if you have trusted friends or family nearby who are willing to care for your children, you must give the authorities a legal basis for keeping your children with them. Without the proper legal documentation, the only option for emergency personnel, first responders, or law enforcement is to call CPS.
Additionally, if you named guardians for your children only in your Last Will & Testament (“Will”), your children might still be still at risk, because your will becomes effective only upon your death. If you are incapacitated by an accident or illness, but still living, your will would be ineffective and the provisions naming your chosen guardians would be useless.
Now, consider the additional scenario where the only guardians named in your Will live far from your home. If there are no legally-binding documents in place for the immediate care of your children, there is a good chance they will be placed with CPS until those long distance guardians arrive. This, too, is not a desirable outcome for your minor children.
No matter the situation, a judge is always required to finalize the appointment of a legal guardian of a minor in Florida in the event of your death or incapacity. In most cases, however, the judge has never met you, your kids, or your family – and the judge has no idea what is best for them. Likewise, a judge does not know what you, as the parent, would want for your minor children. Providing the judge with the proper legal documents is the only way to ensure your kids are ultimately cared for and raised by people you know and trust.
These are just a few of the many scenarios that can lead to your minor children being taken into custody by strangers or placed with a family member you would never want to care for them. Sadly, we have seen this happen many times due to poor planning or a complete failure to plan.
Ensure Your Children Are Protected
At Jacob & Greenfield, PLLC, we offer a comprehensive system known as the For The Kids Plan™ with every estate plan we prepare for families with minor children. Our For The Kids Plan™ provides you with a wide array of legal planning documents to ensure there is never a question about who will take care of your minor children in the event of your incapacity or death.
The full For The Kids Plan™ includes all of the following:
- Legal documents to name short-term guardians, who can be there immediately for your children.
- Legal documents to name long-term guardians, who you know and trust to raise your children.
- Legal documents to name trusted healthcare surrogates for your minor children to make medical decisions for them if you are unable to do so.
- Healthcare directives for your children, so you can provide the healthcare surrogate with directions on the medical needs of your children.
- Instructions for your permanent guardian on how you want your minor children cared for in your absence.
- Babysitter instructions to let your children’s caregivers know what to do and who to call in the event of an emergency.
- A custom, personalized I.D. cared for your wallet stating that you have minor children at home and who should be contacted if you are in an accident or suffer some other life-threatening incident.
- Letters to all short- and long-term guardians, letting them know exactly what to do if called upon.
Work with us.
If you are a parent of a minor in Florida, you want to ensure that your kids will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, no matter what happens to you.
Naming a legal guardian for your kids is easy to do and now is the best time to get started. Schedule a no-cost initial consultation with us to discuss guardianship of a minor in Florida and put your For The Kids Plan™ in place today.