Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: OK, so it's a topic no parent wants to think about too deeply. But the idea of who would raise your children if you and their other parent both died is at the heart of a new romantic comedy opening this weekend. "Life As We Know It" stars the impossibly attractive Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as battling singles who are forced to join forces, move into a picture-perfect house and raise a lovely little baby after the kid's parents die. And although the movie has a happy ending (as these movies must), it's pretty much a roadmap of what not to do.
First off, godparents are not guardians -- unless, that is, you go to a lawyer and write a will in which you specify that they are your child's guardians. Simply asking someone to be a godparent, or even involving them in a church ceremony in which they promise to guide and support the child, does not cut it. If you die without a will, the state will quite happily award your children to the most logical next of kin, who could be a particularly loathsome mother-in-law or that cousin you barely know.
So really, everyone who has a child should visit a lawyer to talk about a will.
Once there, most lawyers will advise parents
to select guardians of at least two different kinds: those who will guard your child's estate and help manage his or her inheritance until the age of maturity, and those who will actually raise the child. If your child's guardians live far away, it's also wise to select a temporary guardian who can instantly take custody if needed. And although some parents do name multiple guardians to share the care of their children, it would be highly unusual to select two single people who hate each other but are both really super-hot and who you know will totally fall in love while bonding over poopy diapers. Unless, you know, your life is a Hollywood movie.
Under no circumstances should you select guardians, name them in your will, then forget to tell or ask them about it (as happens in the movie). Seriously, this is worth a phone call. If you love and respect someone enough to entrust them with your child in the worst-case hypothetical of your death, can't you manage to have this conversation with them? Guardians should not be shocked to find out they are guardians!
The movie looks cute as can be, but parents who go see it for their date night this weekend should be advised: Don't do what they do. If you haven't already, go see your lawyer and make sure your children are protected if the worst should happen.