What will happen to your kids if you die? Although this is an unpleasant thought, it is important to realize that documents designed to “give your children away” are a critical part of any set of estate planning documents. Determining the guardian you want for your children — as well as the guardian of your estate — can be an agonizing process, but it certainly is an essential decision. Too often, young families become “stuck” without making a choice, which can have dire consequences if the worst happens.

In most cases, parents are permitted to nominate an individual as the caregiver for their children. However, the state courts in Florida will still have the final say in determining their guardianship. In addition to choosing the person who will have physical custody of the children, parents need to establish the identity of the person who will manage financial assets for their children.

The guardian of your youngster’s property can be nearly anyone — including an institution such as a bank or a financial planner. Your financial guardian can also be a different person than the physical custodian of the children. For example, some parents choose to name their college-age kids as guardians for their younger siblings; however, the younger children could live with someone else while the other child is still studying at a university.

Further, it is important to remember that asking someone to take on your children as an extra responsibility is also a major financial burden. Education is one factor, but so are groceries, extracurricular activities and even clothing. With that in mind, it is important to set aside several hundred thousand dollars — either through savings or with a life insurance policy — that can cover those financial challenges. Addressing these critical details in your will and estate planning documents can make the difference between security and instability for your children.

Luis E. Barreto