Choose A Guardian
-Have you decided who would take care of your kids if you were involved in a tragic accident? You may be surprised to hear how many people haven't chosen their child's guardian. Well, family legal expert, Alexis Martin Neely joins us now to tell us the simple steps that parents can take to make sure your kids are raised by the people they choose. Thank you so much for coming in. -Thanks for having me here Juli. -I was shocked to hear that 74% of parents don't have a will to name who raise their kids. -Absolutely. It's crazy that people don't do it and yet they don't because there are so many reasons, but they just don't do it. -And you have come up with the kids' protection plan. -Right. -Tell us what it is and why it's so important that parents have that plan. -Well, I came up with the kids' protection plan because the first night that I went out with husband without my kids, I realized if anything happen to us my kids were possibly going to be taken out of my home. -It's so scary. -It's so scary. As a mom, that was not acceptable to me. And then, the choice is who would raise them? It would be left off to a judge who didn't know me and I knew that that judge would appoint the one person I would never want to raise my kids and because that person looks like the best person on paper, but in my heart I know that's not the right person.-- -You know-- So you see it's not enough to just have a will. What do you mean? -Well, a will is going to name guardians for the long term and that can be okay. But for example in my case, I live in California. All of my guardians at that time would have been on the east coast. Well, what happens in the short term and where's your will going to be, and the immediate term when something happens? So, it's not enough to have a will. You've also got to name short-term guardians. And you've got to give instructions to everybody as to what to do and you've got to make sure your caregivers know who to call. You wanna make sure that those instructions are immediately available in case something happens so the police never have a question, never have to call the authorities to try and figure what to do. You want to be the one making the decisions. -And you say that even parents who do have a will are making a series of mistakes. -That's right. -Tell us quickly what are some of those mistakes are? -There are 6 common mistakes that I see all the time Juli and it's possibly that you've made one of them so if you had we can fix it. -Probably no. -Yeah. So the first one is a lot of times people will name a couple to serve as guardians. For example, you might name your sister and your brother-in-law. But what if your sister is in an accident with you? Do you really want your brother-in-law serving as guardian or do you wanna go on to your next choice and people don't indicate that so their kids could end up being cared for by the one person they would not want, maybe their brother-in-law or sister-in-law, something like that. The other thing that people do is they don't name enough alternates. Don't name one person. Well, what if something happens to that one person? That's not going to work. Another thing that people do all the time is they'll consider the financial resources when choosing a guardian. Your guardian isn't the one who's going to take care of the money for your kids. Your guardian is the one who's going to take care of your children's emotional, physical and spiritual needs. You can name somebody else to take care of the financial resources and then the next mistake that people make is they don't, they don't name anybody to take care of the financial resources and the money. Can you do this to yourself or do you need to hire an attorney. I know some parents might say I can't afford all the legal fees. -Right. -Well, you've got to do it yourself if you're not going to hire an attorney. So, I created a free website where people can do it themselves if they don't need to work with an attorney and that's kidsprotectionplan.com. Parents can go on and create the free legal documents that they need to at least name guardians for the long term. Every parent needs to do that. The final mistake that parents make is that they don't exclude anybody that they know they wouldn't want to serve as guardian and who might challenge that decisions. A lot of people have at least one person in their family they know they would never want and you can exclude that person confidentially so they never have to know they were excluded unless they try to take guardianship or challenge your decision. -That is so good to know. I had no idea. Now, how about going about choosing the guardian in the first place, say your husband says, "I want my brother" and you say, "No, I want my brother or my parents." How do you make it sort of fair? -Yeah. Well, you can't always make it fair, but what you can do is you can take the emotion out of the situation. If you're having a hard time choosing, you might wanna bring in an objective advisor who can help you either a friend who be totally objective or if you can afford to work with a professional like a personal family lawyer who'll be able to take the emotion out of the situation and help you really look at the fact objectively, look at your values, look at the people that you have that you can choose and then find rules for everybody. -Okay, now, you have a guardian. You've established who you want. You need to make some financial decisions. -Yes. -Establishing a trust. What is that mean and how do you do it? -Well, the first thing is, is actually you've got to be leaving enough financial resources for your guardians to take care of your kids. And you've got to do it in a living trust so that they have immediate protected and private access to those assets so there doesn't have to be any court process so that your choosing someone who'll be the financial parent for your children throughout their lifetime until they're ready to do it. So, when you're establishing a trust, you really do need to work with a lawyer. Sure, you can go on the internet and there are some resources through the bookstores and things like that, but the big part of it is when you're dealing with money, you want a trust advisor to guide your family when you can't be there. And to have that trusted advisor, it's really best to work with a lawyer and it can be really inexpensive over the long term if people are worried about money and things like that. Most lawyers who are planning for parents to have payment plans and really over a lifetime, it can be a very inexpensive thing. -So, Alexis tell us about some of the problems you've seen when parents didn't have a will. -Every family in America when we start by saying that has got to name guardians for their kids no matter how much wealth they have, it's critical. There was a family down in San Diego thought that everything would be okay. They had talked about who they wanted to be guardians and they were in an accident. The parents were killed. The children lived, 3 boys. There was a fight among this family. Thousand pages of court documents were filed. Tens, maybe hundreds of thousand dollars were spent between 2 sisters who were fighting over who would raise these boys. That never had to happen. We don't know what the right answer is because the parents never wrote it down. They never did it legally. -If that is unexplained how important it is, so I don't know what does. -Yeah. -Alexis Neely, thank you so much for coming and giving us such important information. We appreciate it. -Thanks for having me here. -All right. And for more information, you can log on to Alexis' site, www.kidsprotectionplan.com. Thanks for watching Parents TV, your source for the best information for your growing family. -Thank you for watching Parents TV, our families, our lives.