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Who will raise your kids if you die?

Leaving your kids behind is the last thing you’d think about doing, but unless you have a living trust or have written a will, what happens to your kids when you die? A mom with cancer asked an oncology nurse to raise her son if the disease took her life, which got me realizing the importance of deciding who will raise your kids if you die.

When 45-year-old Tricia Somers was told that her liver cancer had turned terminal, her determination to decide who was going to care for her 8-year-old son, Wesley, after she died became her top priority. But, what happens when you die and your kids have no close family to take care of them like Wesley? Even the thought has me in a panic.

But, her prayers were answered when she became fast friends with an oncology nurse, Tricia Seaman, in the Pinnacle Health’s Community General Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And on her last night in the hospital before being discharged, Somers asked her new friend a whopping favor. “If I die will you raise my son?” she asked Seaman, who was not assigned to Somers. Coincidentally, Seaman, her husband and their family of three teen girls and a 10-year-old son had had been in the process of becoming foster parents and the request seemed like the right fit.

The families have since gotten to know Wesley, moved both him and Somers into the Seaman’s home and have supported one another like a modern-day family. And, although the doctors only gave Somers weeks to live, Somers has gotten stronger and continues to spend as much time with her son as possible. When Somers passes, the Seamans will become Wesley’s legal guardians, giving Somers peace of mind that her son will be taken care of after she dies.

It’s scary to think of dying before your time, but the thought of not knowing what will happen to my kids if my husband and I should both kick the bucket at the same time has me kind of freaking out, especially since they’re both so young. It’s a conversation we really haven’t had and this story made me realize it’s never too early to figure it out. In fact, it’s vital. We take all these steps to make sure they’re cared for while we’re here, but there is no plan for when we’re gone.

Lisa Helfend Meyer, SheKnows Expert at Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers knows that it’s a conversation people don’t like to have, especially when you have young kids, but parents should visit an estate planning attorney and nominate who you want to raise your children upon your death. By nominating someone in your will, the court will take your nomination into account when awarding guardianship so your kids aren’t left floating through the system. Or, worse, if you and your partner aren’t together anymore, it’s scary to realize your kids can be shipped off to the other parent upon your death regardless of parental relationship or custody agreement. It’s a risk not worth taking.

Deciding who will raise your kids if you die isn’t a fun conversation to have, but it should be at the top of your priority list. What happens to your kids when you die is unthinkable. The best thing you can do for your children is to make arrangements about who will care for your kids after you’re gone, regardless of how long you think you have to live.

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