There are a lot of things you need to know as a parent. These 3 documents should be at the top of your list.
Being a parent is one of the most joyful experiences we can have. At least for me, being a mum has completely changed the way I view the world.
At the same time, it has also been the most challenging journey. And not because it is so difficult to be a parent, but because of the constant urge to protect my children.
When I say protect, I mean everything from making sure they are tightly tucked in their beds at night, to helping them make the right choices when going away to college or even making sure that they are taken care of when you are gone.
As a lawyer, I think of myself as extremely lucky because I knew how and what I needed to do to protect my children in case something happened to me.
But it breaks my heart to see so many parents that have no clue about the legal documents that become crucial to the fate of a child in case something happens to them.
The worst thing is that it’s not your fault! Nobody talks about this stuff and you have no way of knowing which are the 3 documents you need to understand in order to protect your children unless you consciously decide to consult a lawyer.
Now before you do that, I want to give you a heads up on what to expect and why it is important for you and the safety of your child.
Read the difference between these documents carefully to know when and what you will need to make sure your child is taken care of in the way you want by the people you want.
1) Power of Attorney
This is a legal document that is commonly used for a variety of purposes. It generally means that a person (“the attorney”) is able to carry out legal and other actions as if they were you (“the principal”).
This might include signing legal documents, access to your bank accounts, etc. You can limit the power of your attorney or revoke it any time.
However, if something happens to you or you are incapable of making decisions the power of the attorney is cancelled immediately and not valid anymore.
If the power of attorney is made enduring this means that it will be still valid if the principal is incapable of taking their own decisions (due to illness for example). Power of attorney is for now; enduring power of attorney is for the future.
A Guardian is the person who takes decisions on your behalf. I usually advise parents to appoint a guardian for their children in case something happens to them.
By doing this you can be sure that your children will be taken care of by the person you want to raise them.
Guardianship is usually concerning a person that can no longer take care of themselves – people with mental illness, people going through psychological trauma or addiction rehabilitation. There can be many cases in which a guardian is necessary for you or your child.
Find someone who you trust and has the capacity to take on this role and arrange the details with your lawyer whenever necessary.
If something unexpected happens to you so that you are incapable of making your own decisions, a guardian will be appointed for you.
However, if you want to prepare for the future and be able to choose your own guardian, you need an:
3) Enduring guardianship
Enduring means looking for the future. An enduring guardianship is a document that appoints someone to take day-to-day decisions on your behalf (such as where you live and which facilities you use) sometime in the future provided you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself.
You can appoint anyone in this position. While the guardianship loses power if you lose capacity, the enduring guardianship is meant for the times that you might not be able to take care of yourself anymore.
These are the three basic documents that every parent needs to understand.
The differences might look small to you but they are crucial from a legal perspective. Contacting your lawyer is the right choice for making legal decisions.
They will be able to give you personalised advice and draft any document that will support your goals of protecting your children.
See, legal isn’t that scary! What really scares me is waiting too long to put your affairs in order – protecting your children needs to be pre-emptive.
Do you any of these documents in place? Please share in the comments below.