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Who will take care of my kids if I die?

I met with a couple in their mid-thirties last week.  They are planning their first vacation without their small children and realized they had no written estate planning documents.

Frantic, they came to me to get a will or something "simple" to "cover" them in the event they both died in some tragic accident.

After sorting out what assets they had and how they wanted it distributed, I asked them about who would take over the parenting of their kids if they both passed away.  They looked a bit surprised, and told me they assumed the kids' grandparents would work things out.

I told them that in California, absent the written wishes of the parents, the probate court system decides who gets legal guardianship of minor children. This means that even the best of loving relatives will be subject to the scrutiny of the probate court if the parents fail to name a guardian or guardians in writing.

Luckily, they discussed it with both sets of parents and I was able to clearly state the guardian designations, both primary and contingent, in their wills.  Now, in the unlikely event that a tragedy occurs, who will raise their children is detailed in their wills.
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