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Does custody always immediately go to the nearest immediate family member?

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
If my husband and I both die, will the authorities release our children into the custody of the first family member to arrive? And how distantly related can they be to have this happen? I have a cousin who's nearer to us than any of our parents or siblings.

Can you have a letter in your wallet naming someone to come and get them who isn't related to you? If there were an accident and my husband was out of town (or if we were both in the accident), I'd prefer to have my kids collected by a friend than sent with a stranger. Does the letter need to be witnessed or anything?
post #2 of 41
I would have a will made up and notarized, at least. Then I would put a copy in a fire box in your house and give another copy to the person you want to have custody.
post #3 of 41
You should name a guardian in your will and also establish a trust for your child(ren), which you can do using a simple life insurance policy.
post #4 of 41
You need a will with guardianship named, nothing at all is automatic and if you don't make your wishes known it could be a mess.

As for who is called to come get the children immediately during an emergency, absolutely, you can have that information in your wallet or purse. I would think that most workers would be looking for an address book, so if you have a little address book in your wallet, you can put that information on the first page, for example.

ETA: I don't know anything about the likelihood of that information being found (that is, I don't know if it's protocol for a paramedic or the police or a nurse at the hospital to look in your purse) but it sure can't hurt anything.
post #5 of 41
One piece of advice I read somewhere is to have someone in your cell phone directory listed as ICE (in case of emergency). This is the person you want the paramedics to call if you're found unresponsive. Presumably, that person can give further, more detailed instructions.
post #6 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Addy's Mom View Post
You should name a guardian in your will and also establish a trust for your child(ren), which you can do using a simple life insurance policy.
Yes to this. I'm always shocked at parents who seem to think a will is a luxury vs. a necessity. Your kids would want you to love and protect them... even if your gone. A will does that.
post #7 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahr View Post
One piece of advice I read somewhere is to have someone in your cell phone directory listed as ICE (in case of emergency). This is the person you want the paramedics to call if you're found unresponsive. Presumably, that person can give further, more detailed instructions.
Good tip! I heard they also will call the "Home" number.
post #8 of 41
I have made some tags that are attached to the car seats. They are laminated and stuck on with cable ties.

They list:
Child's Full Name
DOB
Blood Type
Allergies
3 different next of kin (mother, brother, inlaws, my parents in CA)
Favorite foods
Favorite things

But you need a will like the others said, with guardians, a built in trust, and trustees named if your guardians can't handle money.

Liz
post #9 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
You need a will with guardianship named, nothing at all is automatic and if you don't make your wishes known it could be a mess.
Yep, HAVE to have a will with guardianship! My parents died when we were kids, and we went to the LAST person they'd have wanted us to go to. Four years later, I got a lawyer and was in court for all of my freshman year of college...

Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahr View Post
have someone in your cell phone directory listed as ICE (in case of emergency). This is the person you want the paramedics to call if you're found unresponsive. Presumably, that person can give further, more detailed instructions.
Yes, this!! You can have more than one ICE. Like ICE-John (husband), ICE-Mary (sister), ICE-Julia (neighbor).

The info tags on car seats are good too. Our hospital used to give out kits for this. Think they had a whale or something on them... There was an acronym but I forget it now - oh, I think it was We're Having A Little Emergency. Oh, I'm proud of remembering that!
post #10 of 41
I also have a number noted on the page of numbers I leave for a sitter that says -- call this person first if something happens and lists my best friends, who also happen to be the designated guardians for the kids.
post #11 of 41
I've also heard that if the person who gets custody does not live nearby, you should designate a short-term person who should take the kids until the ultimate custodian can come get them.
post #12 of 41
This is a good question. I am a choicemom (ie, conceived with anonymous donor sperm) In addition, my extended family do not live in this country (US). I assume that if something were to happen to me, that my mother would be called, and custody given to her (though she does not live here) otherwise kids would end up in foster care. This is hardly in their interests. Dont courts look to whats in childs interests?

I have notarized document pinned to my wall by the door, which states that kids would go to grandma first (with number and address listed) then to my siblings (5 of them) in order of preference.

I was told this would not stand up in court ( i dont have a will, as i have so few possessions) I dont understand how a notarized document would be considered invalid, especially if it states that kids go to next of kin.

if my kids ended up in foster care, would my mother then have a case for suing the authority that messed with my children, and contradicted my will?

I assume they would find this information as it is on my door. I have numbers in my phone who have my parents information but are not people who could take care of my children.

Interested to hear more...
Maya
post #13 of 41
ps have not read entire thread, and look forward to doing so...
post #14 of 41
pps. does anyone know what constitutes a will specifically? Why wouldnt a notarized document stating my will, constitute a 'will'? Is it really necessary to pay a lawyer for this? Not all of us have this kind of disposable income.

Perhapa i was misinformed, and notarized document would stand up in court...

To pp who went to court to sort this out in college year, hope you got lots of money from the people responsible for messing with your life
post #15 of 41
You can do a will yourself, the only problem might be if you word things incorrectly or if some family member steps up and objects.

Also, I believe it needs to be signed by two witnesses. I'm not sure the notarization is significant. Yours would probably be followed UNLESS someone objected, that's where the problem comes in.

If you have zero money to spend on it, I would go to the public library and look up books for legal forms that are valid for your state. You can probably find a generic will stating guardianship, etc that you can just fill in with the proper info.

If you have a bit of money to spend ($35-40), I'd probably get something like Willmaker software (works for all states except Louisiana):

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/boo..._-Primary&IF=N

That software will only work for 2010, but the will it makes will be valid indefinitely. You just can't use it to generate any new wills after 2010 is over. It also give you all the instructions for getting it signed and validated, etc.

For what it's worth, DH and I had our wills done by a lawyer and it only cost about $300 for both of us (two separate wills which are almost identical, but mine leaves my stuff to DH and vice versa). But, I realize we live in a LCOL area and it can cost a lot more for some people.
post #16 of 41
The closest/fastest person to get there that is in your contact list would get initial posession of the kids most likely.

But permanent custody for the long term is decided by the courts. If there are people that you would NOT be okay with getting the kids then you MUST have a will. It can be very simple and basic, but you MUST have a notarized will to protect your children.

Don't assume what the courts will do. I think the only real assumption that you might be able to make sort of is that the richest/person most likely to fight in court will prevail. But even that is not iron clad.

If you are worrying at all, then you must get a will. Don't leave something like this to some stranger who doesn't know you or your family or your history or what you want to make a blind decision.
post #17 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
This is a good question. I am a choicemom (ie, conceived with anonymous donor sperm) In addition, my extended family do not live in this country (US). I assume that if something were to happen to me, that my mother would be called, and custody given to her (though she does not live here) ...
I don't know if you can assume that, especially since she's not in your country. I would not consider this resolved at all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
otherwise kids would end up in foster care. This is hardly in their interests. Dont courts look to whats in childs interests?
Of course but the court is not their mother. They can only do the best they can, and without your legal document it complicates things. It's up to you to look to the child's interests, ultimately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
I have notarized document pinned to my wall by the door, which states that kids would go to grandma first (with number and address listed) then to my siblings (5 of them) in order of preference.

I was told this would not stand up in court ( i dont have a will, as i have so few possessions) I dont understand how a notarized document would be considered invalid, especially if it states that kids go to next of kin.
I don't know that the document would or would not stand up in court. But why leave it to chance?

You don't need a certain number of possession to have a will. If you have children, you need to state guardianship, and also leave any assets (no matter how few) to them or their guardians.

"Next of kin" is not clearcut, epecially since the next of kin is in anoter country. Hence, it really could be a mess without legal guardianship straightened out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post
if my kids ended up in foster care, would my mother then have a case for suing the authority that messed with my children, and contradicted my will?
I'm not following, you said you have no will.
post #18 of 41
You definitely want a living revocable trust one that establishes who you want to be the guardian (and talk to that person/persons in advance and get their blessing) and that tranfsers all of your assets (401Ks, home, insurance policies, etc) to the trust. You child or children are the beneficiaries of the trust. This is the simplest way to go as you avoid probate which is costly and can take years. You also need to establish a trustee (this is YOU while you are alive) and someone else if you both die. I have my father as the trustee should I die. You definitely need a hefty life insurance policy (particularly on the person who is the main income generator).

This sounds complicated but it's really not. A lawyer can set it all up for you for a few hundred dollars. It's VERY important to do this. Good luck!
post #19 of 41
The legality of a will is determined by state law, so the fine points (like number of signatures/witnesses, need for notarization, etc.) vary by state.

There are various legitimate software programs you can buy to do a will and they generally provide different state laws for you. Is this as good as a lawyer? No. But it's something, and the probate court will attempt to follow your wishes if they are made clear in these documents. If you have complex family and/or custody issues, especially if you are divorced, I would recommend seeing an attorney about it.
post #20 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
As for who is called to come get the children immediately during an emergency, absolutely, you can have that information in your wallet or purse.
I think this is what the OP is asking, rather than someone named for long-term care. If you were both in an accident, then the children would have to be with someone to begin, right? I'm assuming they'd stay there for a bit, at least until things get sorted out. After that, I've always read to have emergency contacts in your car and purse/wallet. Many of our partnered but not married friends do that so their partners will be notified if something happens.
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