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Considering legal authority for your children in your absence

Have you thought about who will have legal authority of your children if something happens to you? Many Denver residents don't give this much thought unless they have extensive assets to draw up a will for. Then, while considering who will inherit their assets, they also consider who will be in charge of their children and their inherited assets, such as a trust fund, until the children are of age.

Whether you have assets or not and whether you are young or old, you should make plans for your children in the event something happens to you. If you don't, they could end up in the custody of Child Protective Services, and if you are like most people, this is not what you want. Here are some tips to consider:

First, don't put this off. Give careful consideration to who you want to raise your children if something happens to you and your spouse. Talk it over and then talk to the intended guardian or guardians. Select more than one if possible in case one either refuses or is unable to fulfill the role. Make sure you are very explicit to the intended guardian about your wishes. For instance, if you want them to be there immediately for your children in the event there is an emergency, share that with them. If you have certain ways you want your children raised, make sure they know what that is and are agreeable. It may be very important to you that your child is raised with a certain religious background. Will they carry this on for you?

Second, don't expect a verbal arrangement to hold up as a guardianship agreement. Have a legal document drawn up that will hold up in court. Appoint a first choice, and if possible, a second choice to be guardian of your children if something happens to you and/or your spouse. If you fail to do this, your children could end up with a court-appointed guardian who is not your choice.

Remember that your children are your most important assets. If something happens to you, they will be in a traumatic situation already. Careful thought and planning can throw them a lifeline, and be a great comfort in the event that a catastrophic emergency should occur.

Source: National Public Radio, "Picking a Guardian for Your Children" accessed Feb. 19, 2015

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