17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, November 12, 2007

If We Die, Who Will Take Care of Our Children?

I don't even like thinking about the possibility of dh and I both dying. It's just too sad. But, I know it is a good idea to make plans even if the scenario you're planning for is quite unpleasant.

Here are some things I've thought about - Are the grandparents too old? How will siblings react if you choose one over the other? Should you choose a neighbor, so children don't have to be completely uprooted from their life (assuming they are older and in school)? How do you weigh shared values, financial stability, family connection and geographic location? Should the chosen guardians also be given full control over any money that is left to the children, or should the money be managed by a different person? Should you name one person instead of the couple just in case their marriage hits the rocks? And it seems like whomever the choice, you probably have to reassess the choice every so often because circumstances can change so often. Right? And once the decision is made do you tell your children about it? Or let them help in the decision process? I guess this might depend on their age at the time?

For those of you out there who have already written out their wills, how did you decide who will be named guardian of your children if you die? What was your thought process?

It's such a hard choice, don't you think?


  • Hi Carrie! This is a yucky topic, but so important. In our family, the choice was clear. Parents would be too old and so we looked at siblings. My SIL has a stable family rooted in the gospel and loves my kids. When I approached them on this subject I was given the enthusiastic YES!, that I expected....actually it was a little too enthusiastic. I may have to watch my back. JK. A good friend of mine, however, got a less enthusiastic response from her brother and his wife, prompting her to look elsewhere in the family. She was surprised by thier hesitatation and was so glad that they had a formal discussion about it rather than assuming that they would accept the responsibility.
    posted by Anonymous marianne at 11/12/2007 08:43:00 AM  

  • Over this past summer my hubby and I both started feeling prompted to decide who we would want to care for Michael if something happened to both of us. I was surprised when I brought the subject up that he, too, had been contemplating the same issue. Sad as it is to think about how aweful it would be if something were to happen to us, we discussed it over a few days and made a decision. We wanted someone who shared our values, had a stable family environment, and already felt a strong bond with our son. Our choice for guardians was pretty clear to us, so we found an opportunity when they were visiting our home to talk to them. They were thrilled to accept the responsibility and as we informed the rest of the family, they respected our decision. We still have to draw it up officially, but being able to talk about it in the open and then making the decision was an important first step.
    posted by Blogger danyelly at 11/12/2007 08:47:00 AM  

  • After we had our first daughter, our lawyer friend encouraged us to set up our will. We decided on my sister and her family to care for the kids if anything should happen. We wanted someone that shared our same values, but also someone that was closest to us in personality, parenting techniques, and even hobbies and interests. We decided to choose someone else to handle the money (my brother, who is a financial wiz.), that way they are covered by two seperate families. One nice thing is that we know that if anything should happen that certainly our whole family would step up to help raise our babes, no matter who was specifically mentioned.

    It's not an easy thing to do, but it makes it much easier on the family if anything should happen.
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 11/12/2007 08:59:00 AM  

  • We had decided on my brother & SIL (based on age, geographic proximity to other family members, shared values, mental / emotional / financial stability, SIL's total fabulousness, etc) but they recently had twins in addition to the four children they already had. Now, if anyone could do it, they could -- but I just wonder if it would be too much to add our three (who are VERY energetic) to their six. DH & I haven't talked about revising the plan, and I haven't discussed my thoughts with B&SIL, but I just don't know anymore....

    Of course I hope nobody ever needs to raise my kids but me and DH, but you're right that we need a plan. And that the plan needs to be revisited occasionally to make sure it still works for everyone. :-P
    posted by Blogger RCH at 11/12/2007 09:40:00 AM  

  • My husband and I have struggled with this decision. We both come from strong LDS families, so that wasn't an issue for us. My biggest worries are how close my boys are to my mom and making sure that there is a great male role model for them. My sister hasn't been able to have kids, lives near my mom, and has a great relationship with my boys. However, her husband is Peter Pan--mid-30s and into cartoons and legos--I just don't want that for my boys. So next is my brother and his wife. They live an hour away but the boys are used to seeing my mom daily so I worry about changing their lives that much by taking Grandma away too. It has really became a matter of prayer and even fasting for us.
    posted by Blogger colds1 at 11/12/2007 10:07:00 AM  

  • This is an issue my dh and I just finished dealing with. It took a long time to figure out who we would choose to look after our girls and then to officially name them in our wills/trust. We chose my sister for our primary and my best friend and her dh as our secondary caregivers for our children if something should happen to us.

    We felt that our parents were not in a position financially or physically to care for the kids if something should happen to us. They weren't in the mindset of taking care of young children on a full-time basis anymore and we didn't feel they could do as good a job as someone closer to our age range could. We only told the people we chose about our decision, so we haven't had to deal with other siblings reactions. We didn't choose a neighbor because we didn't feel that we knew them well enough and we wanted to keep the kids in the family. I've known my best friend since I was in grade school and feel like she is family, so that is why she is my secondary caregiver. We definitely weighed shared values, financial stability, family connection and geographic location. I would definitely want my kids to grow up in the same house with the similar values to what I have and I wouldn't want them to have to move to a foreign area if the people I chose lived far away, I would want to keep them in as familiar setting as possible. We gave the guardian full control of the money because she has proven herself to be financial responsible and it seemed easier for her. We named just my sister as the primary guardian because if something should happen to her marriage, we didn't want there to be any chance that the kids would be involved in a custody battle. We chose the secondary guardians as a couple because they make a good balance and both their families live in the area, so we knew they wouldn't be moving away.

    Our lawyer suggested reviewing our trust every couple of years or whenever there is a big life change to make sure the document is still accurate.

    We did not tell our kids about it because they are too young and it would scare them. I think if they asked then we would discuss it with them. I wouldn't let young kids help in the decision making process because I think that would be putting too much pressure on them.

    This was an extremely difficult decision to make and we took a really long time figuring out what to do. It's something no one enjoys thinking about, but it is the most responsible thing to do as a parent.
    posted by Anonymous mkc at 11/12/2007 10:34:00 AM  

  • Is this like the giveaways, where I just have to comment and I get put in the running? :)
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 11/12/2007 11:57:00 AM  

  • This is something DH and I have yet to tackle. We've talked about it some, but never discussed it with anyone else, and haven't put it in writing. Thanks for the reminder that it's something we need to work on.

    Right now the kiddos would go to my parents. They're 9 years younger than DH's parents, so better able to handle young kids at this point. And since DH's parents live 10 minutes from my parents, and the grandparents are who the kiddos are closest to, it's a no-brainer right now. At some point, as the grandparents get older, this will probably change. Then it will be one of our siblings, but I don't know which one. (We're lucky in that, while I want to choose who it would be, I think any of the 9 would take good care of my kids.)

    As far as telling kids, I don't think you should make them part of the decision, but I think you should be up front with them about it if they ask. I know we asked my parents when we were little, and they just told us matter-of-factly. I think it's less scary when you know your parents have a good plan. Also, I know they changed primary caregivers at least a couple of times as we were growing up, as family circumstances changed (my grandparents got older and sicker, my one aunt and uncle moved to Cambodia, etc).
    posted by Anonymous Vada at 11/12/2007 12:00:00 PM  

  • Wow. I'm an anonymous reader of your good blog. My husband and I have been thinking about this topic. We live far from both sides of our family, have several children, one with health problems.

    We were able to spend some time with both sets of grandparents this year (one set was previously named as guardian, and one set to manage the money) and quickly saw that the set that we had assigned to the kids were stressed and distressed by being around our better-behaved than-normal-children. In some discussions with the other set of grandparents, we aren't sure that the proceeds of our life insurance would remain intact for our kids.

    So much for that version of our will.

    Now we need to come up with something, realizing that: (a) I don't want my in-laws to take the kids now. (b) We live far away from family so our kids don't know any aunts or uncles well. Those that they are familiar with would not be appropriate guardians for one reason or another. (c) We haven't lived in one place long enough to make friends of great enough depth to trust with our kids. (d) Even those of our siblings that we would trust with our kids might be stretched to take _all_ of them.

    So given all those factors, we might even decide to split up our kids between two of my siblings that live close to each other.

    Like the rest of you, we hope it's never an issue, but we feel like we need to figure something out and soon. We've set the end of the year as our goal.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/12/2007 01:02:00 PM  

  • we've not put it in writing (hangs head in shame)
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 11/12/2007 01:37:00 PM  

  • tamrobot-
    You're in my running... :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 11/12/2007 02:21:00 PM  

  • Kyle and I just did this last summer. It's a tough thing to do, but I felt SO relieved once I felt everything had been arranged.
    We chose my Uncle and his wife (only 4 yrs older then me) for many reasons, a few being they had boys around our sons age, they are kind, we agree with their parenting style and their values.

    I am sure in a few years when my little brothers start their families we will revisit the choice. We decided not to do my parents, even though they are young (50) because we have only one child right now. Obviously, they won't be having more children and we wanted an atmosphere where L could have a sibling experience. Are grandparenets too old? I say that depends on your parents age and your childrens age.

    We didn't consider geographic location, but you have a good point in not wanting the kids to be uprooted. When our son is old enough, I will definitely take that into consideration.

    We wrote a simple will and signed it - similar to this:
    In the event of our death, we would like legal custody of X to go to X. X and X will all of our assets and life insurance policy to X upon our death. These assets are to be invested in a trust set up by X for the proper management of these funds until X is age 18. Unless X deems otherwise, $X taken out annually, increasing 5% each year until age 18, are to be used to help with the expense of raising X.

    It's such a yucky thing to think about but would be so much worse if there was nothing set up. This is a great discussion - you raised so many interesting questions I had not thought of.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 11/12/2007 07:02:00 PM  

  • Our decision came about the same as most of the previous comments. We chose my sis and her husband. One factor that we considered that hasn't been mentioned was how would BIL's parents treat our kids as their new "grandkids". My sis has three kids and we wanted to make sure our kids would grow up not feeling like outsiders. Luckily we have had some interaction with BIL's parents and feel confidant that they would be warmly included. It is something to consider, especially if the family you choose spends a lot of time with the "other" side of the family, as mine does.
    posted by Anonymous mimi at 11/13/2007 09:02:00 AM  

  • Just wanted to mention that this is not something you can decide and forget...we've changed this so many times through the years.

    Couples get divorced, people leave church activity, older children marry, and grandparents become disabled. All of that should be considered and the designation kept accurate to reflect changing times.
    posted by Anonymous Naismith at 11/13/2007 03:03:00 PM  

  • I have thought long and hard about this topic and have decided no can raise my kids but me so I just can't die.

    Seriously though, all the grandparents are too old. Some of the sibs are responsible and would be willing but none share our religous beliefs and my children can't lose that. But it seems a lot to ask of friends.
    posted by Blogger Sexy Housewife at 11/13/2007 05:08:00 PM  

  • It's funny you wrote this post, Carrie, because we are actually setting up our will and trust right now. Here are some of the mistakes we have already managed to make:

    1-When our oldest was born, we went ahead and asked my brother and his wife to be his guardian in the event of our death. Now they have two of their own kids, both of them work long hours, and to be perfectly honest, I don't love their values and their parenting practices. We should have thought about this more carefully. We are going to name my mom as their guardian and hope they don't talk to each other about it. (I don't really want to have the "I don't think you are good enough to raise my kids" discussion with them especially since the chances of DH and I both dying are very remote)

    2-We have made three wills but never signed any of them. Really stupid. I am determined to finish the job this time and have given myself a deadline until the end of the year to get our trust completely finished. I think it is some kind of psychological thing, if I don't sign the will I won't die, because I'm generally not one to not finish a project.

    3. I just made this last mistake. I started putting our assets in a living revocable trust, which is pretty standard these days....only to find out that this type of trust is not recommended if you have a special needs child. We don't know if our special needs child will need extra help or not when he is older, but if he does, the assets in our trust would prevent him from receiving any sort of government aid. FYI for anyone else in a similar situation!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 11/13/2007 08:07:00 PM  

  • It's been so great to hear everyone's thoughts and experiences on the matter. It is an important (though somewhat unpleasant) thing to take care of. And it's obviously important to remember that circumstances can change, so your will may need to change as well.

    I guess we are lucky in that dh and I both have great (and pretty large) families, but it also makes the choice a hard one as well. I guess we could do what Tamrobot suggested and do a drawing for what I guess are our highly adorable children. :)
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 11/13/2007 10:26:00 PM  

  • Wow, Carrie, this is a great topic. A few years ago we maade a trust and decided to leave as guardians my DH's sister. DH and his side of the family are not LDS (no one is in my family too except my mom), but they are incredibly stable, loving supportive people who already have a great relationship with our kids.

    Our lawyer specifically told us that guardianship should never be left to those significantly older than you (i.e., grandparents). However, when I mentioned to my mom that we had chosen guardianship for the kids to my sister-in-law, she went ballistic. Freaked out. Couldn't handle the fact that I was putting their souls in jeopardy and (she felt) cutting her off. I had to call the lawyer and have him CHANGE it to my mom, even though she is in poor health and almost 70 years old. She can't even babysit them for more than a few hours without getting tired out, and she can't really take them anywhere or do any activities with them at all!

    But... it was a matter of keeping peace with my mother. All I can do now, is hope I don't die first!! These kinds of topics can lead to real heated and emotional situations within the family. Choose wisely!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/14/2007 04:50:00 AM  

  • Ooops. I didn't mean to be annonymous. That was me.

    posted by Anonymous meems at 11/14/2007 04:51:00 AM  

  • meems,
    I would call the lawyer again and have him change it back. You don't have to tell your mom -- really, who you choose is not her business, and she should want what's best for your kids, not what's best for her. The only reason she would find out is if you died first, and if that happens, let her be mad at you, as long as your kids are well taken care of. Of course, it's your family, so you have to decide, but in my opinion it's all about who will be able to take good care of your kids, and all other concerns are secondary.
    posted by Anonymous Vada at 11/14/2007 07:09:00 AM  

  • Meems,

    I agree with Vada, I think you should call the lawyer and change the guardian back to your sister-in-law. Your mom never needs to know and you can always write a letter to her explaining your decision to be kept with your will if anything should happen to you. This would keep the peace in your family and also be the wisest decision for your children's sake.
    posted by Anonymous MKC at 11/14/2007 04:19:00 PM  

  • Just a few things to remember.

    The guardians of your children ALREADY have access to your money to be used for their care, education, etc, whether you stipulate it or not. I thought there had to be some clause stating so, but there does not.

    Also, be sure to name back ups because everyone has the right to say 'no,' if you die and they are listed as care-takers.

    Also, I LOVE Legal Zoom, (google them), for people like myself who have never been divorced, remarried, or have special needs children, or a lot of money. It's dirt cheap and so easy to use.

    BTW, I was just accepted to law school, and have tons of lawyer friends, (experienced and non), and though most lawyers will tell you to get a professional--my friends all agree that Legal Zoom is completely sufficient for many people.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/15/2007 09:57:00 AM  

  • Vada and mkc, of course you are right. Right now, I am just hoping that both my DH and I don't die first (!) but we should really change it. I can't imagine, though, meeting my mom in the next world and having the first words out of her mouth be: "how could you do that to me!?" :-)
    posted by Anonymous meems at 11/17/2007 04:45:00 AM  

  • So I know I'm coming late to this discussion, but hopefully some of you are still out there... We have wills that appoint a guardian that we drew up when my son was born, and we revised them (and finally signed them!!) last month before we left the country on an extended trip. We used an online site to do it, since we figured our situation was pretty basic.

    We also have life insurance policies for both myself and my husband, with our son being the beneficiary. So, I feel at this point that if my husband and I died tomorrow, we wouldn't be leaving a total mess behind.

    But, my question is, what's the next step to take it to the next level? Some of you mention setting up trusts, etc. - who did you work with to do that - a financial planner? A lawyer? If you have limited assets (a house with plenty still owed on it and life insurance) is it worth it? Consider me totally uneducated in this arena....
    posted by Blogger marian at 11/21/2007 08:34:00 PM  

  • Marian,

    Not pretending to be an expert here, but this is what I remember from my corporate law class in grad school...which had a section on wills and trusts.

    The big advantage to having a living revocable trust is that, upon your death, your heirs won't have to go through probate to get your estate. This saves a ton of time and money, which could be important if young kids are the heirs. Probate can take months....and lawyers fees can really add up, whereas a trust should enable your heirs to inherit your estate in a matter of weeks. Although, IMO, people with lots of assets should definitely have a trust, really most people will benefit from it.

    My prof, an attorney, said that some attorneys will discourage people away from trusts and tell them all they need is a will. This is true, but it is also to their advantage because probate fees paid to the attorney are much larger than their fee to draw up a trust....so they are in effect "waiting it out" so they can charge people more after they die. This is what my prof said...I am not trying to lawyer bash....

    The only downsides I can think of are the initial cost of a trust, which usually runs a few hundred dollars...but like I said earlier, is far cheaper than probate....and the work involved in getting all of your assets, including the deed of your house....changed over to your trust. I won't lie, I am in the process of doing it now and its a pain...but I still think its worth the hassle in the long run.

    Oh...I haven't checked this out for myself but I have heard that Suze Orman has a will and trust kit that is very reasonably priced. I would guess that because of her strong name brand that it is very legit.

    Hope this helps with your decision...
    posted by Blogger Jen at 11/24/2007 06:47:00 PM  

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