Putting Together a Child Protection Plan

If you’ve got kids, a child protection plan is a must. Here are some guidelines to consider.

A formal child protection plan is one of those things every parent should draft, but that many of us never seem to get around to. Yet it’s an absolutely necessity, so that you can specify who you want to act as your child’s guardian if there’s an emergency, or if you should die suddenly.

Most of us have some idea of who we want to act in our stead, and we may make verbal agreements with those we’ve selected: godparents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. However, the state has its own ideas about child custody, and you can’t be sure they’ll honor your wishes unless you put them in writing.

The General Idea

Basically, the idea here is not just to head off well-meaning Child Protective Services agencies and get your kids into a good home, but also to make sure your children get what’s coming to them in terms of inheritance.

You’ll need to spell all those things out precisely in a legal document that you’ve had witnessed and notarized. The format doesn’t really matter; you can lay it out in plain language or legalese, and can print out appropriate forms from the Internet.

The important thing is to make sure you have the document reviewed and approved by a family lawyer. Then, you’ll want to file copies with that lawyer, if possible, along with the appointed guardians and other interested parties. Put a copy in your safety deposit box at your bank, too.

Common Mistakes

Even those who do prepare protection plans for their children often make mistakes that trip them up, so that the authorities don’t always honor their wishes. For example: let’s say you appoint a couple to act as your guardian. What happens if they break up, or one dies?

It’s a good idea to include a few alternates, in case the first person(s) you name can’t do the job for some reason. Also, be sure to make specific exclusions if there’s someone in the family whom you don’t want raising your children.

More Mistakes

In addition to appointing guardians, don’t forget that you really need to provide your kids with enough financial resources, if you can, to help them reach adulthood. This may take the form of investments, insurance, and the like. Don’t assume the guardians you choose should have to take care of everything.

Be sure to assign someone to take care of your children’s assets as well.

Finally, you should specify short-term guardians, just in case you get in an accident or become involved in some other emergency. That way, you don’t have to worry about CPS or anyone else stepping in unwanted. Your child protection plan will help keep your kids safe.