Imagine sitting down to write out the instructions for your babysitter.  You and your spouse are going to have a lovely evening out, but you don’t want to be out of touch in case an important question comes up (is it  true that the 8 p.m. bedtime rule is really more of a guideline?) or an emergency situation arises.  So you jot down detailed instructions for every detail and likely eventuality you can imagine, and then you add your cell phone number, your pediatrician’s phone number, your neighbors’ phone numbers, and the phone numbers of the restaurant and movie theater where you can be found if you don’t answer your cell phone.  You breathe a sigh of relief as you ease out of your driveway, but between home and the restaurant, you think of 101 more scenarios that are not covered in your 8 pages of notes.  Somehow, you and your little ones make it through the evening, but you hold on to the babysitter’s instructions so you can add to them the next time you will be “enjoying” an evening out.

Now imagine that same nerve-wracking exercise, but with a twist.  This time, you won’t be coming home.  Instead of a date with your spouse, this is your date with destiny.  What if neither you nor your spouse come home from this date?  Your instructions will have to cover a great deal more territory, including such things as naming your children’s replacement parents will be, and whether you will want the “replacements” to move into your home or take your children into theirs.

If you are leaving your children with friends or relatives while you and your spouse are out of town for a few days, other considerations come into play.  You might want to consider giving your children’s caretakers your power of attorney and authorization to consent to medical treatment.  If you will be out of town for an extended period of time, you might want your power of attorney to include authorization to enroll your child in school, speak to your child’s teachers, and consent to your child’s participation in excursions and other school functions. 

If you have minor children, or if you have grown up children who could benefit from a little adult supervision over their inheritances, your estate plan may (and should) resemble babysitters’ instructions on steroids.  That is precisely where the wise counsel of trained advisors can ease you through the process of developing a set of rules and instructions that will make life easier on your loved ones on that one occasion when you don’t come home as expected.

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