Let Gegan Law Office Put Together Your Family Action Plan in Tampa, FL
What happens to your kids on day one, if something happens to you?
Even if you never thought about this question, you may be surprised to find out that you already have a plan in place. It’s the State’s plan, and it’s called Foster Care. Don’t get us wrong. Families who open their homes to Foster Children are generally wonderful people, and the stories you hear about foster families “doing it for the money” are mostly hogwash. Edmund Gegan and his wife have been a Foster Care Family, and have personal experience with the Foster Care System. But a good Foster Family will be the first ones to tell you that what is best for kids is to be with people they know, trust, and love and who might even be able to keep your kids going to their own school, play with their own friends and even sleep in their own beds. Stability is key for kids who have just had their world turned upside down and have lost so much, so it’s incredibly important to provide as much security, stability and “sameness” for your kids as you can.
That is your job, not the Foster Family’s job. At the Gegan Law Office, we don’t just draft a Will for you. We help you put together a Plan.
As parents of young children, our first responsibility is to make sure our kids are provided for. The question we need an answer to is - What happens on Day One, if something happens to us? As part of preparing an Estate Plan for families with young children, the Gegan Law Office helps you prepare the documents necessary for appointment of both a permanent guardian, as well as emergency guardians for your kids, who can take charge of your kids immediately, without even going through the Courts. But we also encourage clients to prepare their own Family Action Plan, to make sure that their kids are provided for right from Day One.
Florida law allows you to appoint a “Pre-need Guardian” (and alternates) for your kids, who will be authorized to care for them immediately upon the death or incapacity of the last surviving parent for a long enough time to allow for the appointment of your permanent guardian. Also, Florida law provides for appointment of a person who can make medical decisions for your child. (Fl. Stat. §§ 743.0645 – Pre-Need Guardian for a Minor, and 744.3046 – Other Persons Who May Consent To Medical Care or Treatment of a Minor). The Gegan Law Office does both for you in a separate Childcare Power of Attorney which you can hand out to your chosen Pre-need Guardians (without having to give them a copy of your entire Will or Trust). What this means for you is your selected “Pre-need Guardian” does not need a Court Order to take your kids home and care for them … on Day One. You have given them everything they need.
When selecting Pre-Need Guardian (“emergency” guardians) and alternates, you should pick people who live close to you (It’s best to be less than an hour away), and who are familiar to your children as someone they already know, love and trust. These are the people who will come if they get a phone call at 1:00 a.m. informing them you are in the hospital, or worse, and they need to come and take your kids home for a while. They only need to care for the kids temporarily, until the Probate Court can appoint your permanent Guardians (who may live far away, and therefore would not serve well as “emergency” guardians). You don’t have to select family members – it can be anyone you would trust with your kids for a short time, until your permanent guardian can take charge. You may even consider talking to the parents of your kids’ “best friends” or frequent play dates, or the homes where you already allow your kids to stay overnight. You may find those families also have not thought about this, and would welcome the opportunity to “Swap” being each other’s Pre-need Guardians.
That is Step One and that is our job. Step Two is your Family Action Plan. All the documentation in the world won’t get your kids where they need to go if no one knows about your Plan.
First, talk to your chosen emergency guardians and let them know you want them to be your Pre-need Guardian, and to take temporary care of your kids if something happens to you until the Court can appoint your permanent guardians (who can say “no” to taking care of kids temporarily?). Second, give them a copy of your Childcare Power of Attorney, and let them know this is the document which gives them the legal right to care for, and make medical decisions for your child if something happens to you. Third, create an Emergency Contact List and put it somewhere easy to find, like on your refrigerator, or the family’s bulletin board, etc. This list should name your emergency guardians, and give several contact numbers to reach them. This is the list you show your babysitter when you leave on Date Night as the numbers to call if you both don’t make it home that night and can’t be reached. Put a copy of your Childcare Power of Attorney right under that Emergency Contact List, so any police officers or social workers coming to your home will also see that you have already appointed a Pre-Need Guardian for your kids. Fourth, create a “Need To Know” list for each of your kids, and include everything someone would need to know to care for your kids for up to a month, and attach it to your Childcare Power of Attorney. Include allergies, medications (and where in the house those medications are kept), contact info for your kids’ pediatrician, where their prescriptions get filled, your choice for permanent guardian, your other family members, and your estate planning attorney and all of their contact information. You could also include information regarding sports your kids are involved in, bedtime rituals and schedules, favorite foods, toys and books, how to contact the families of your kids’ regular “play-date” friends. All the things you think would help that Pre-need Guardian maintain as much “sameness” for your kids as possible. Routine can help your kids keep it together when they are facing losing their parents. When Edmund Gegan and his wife were Foster Parents – this kind of information was invaluable when caring for kids for even a few days or a week.
Once you have your Family Action Plan in place, take a deep breath and relax! The reality is that the chances of both of you becoming incapacitated or passing away at the same time are incredibly small! We are planning for the Worst-Case Scenario here. But once you have your Pre-Need Guardian documents and your Family Action Plan in place, you may find yourself feeling a deep peace of mind that you have done everything you can for your kids.
Being prepared for the worst can free you up to enjoy the best life has to offer you!