5 legal questions every new mother should ask to protect her children

Are your children protected...even if something happens to you? Here are five legal questions you should be asking.

5 legal questions every new mother should ask to protect her children

You’ve done it. You’ve taken the leap into parenthood. You didn’t quite understand the amount of responsibility that came with becoming a parent until you saw that little squishy face. Then—wham. So much to think about, so much to plan for: how to feed the baby, when to sleep train, and how to wrap a baby carrier. (It’s complicated.)

Just as important as newborn care 101 is making sure that you and your partner have covered important legal considerations for your growing family.

These are tough—but essential—conversations to have that help protect your child no matter what happens.

As a lawyer and mom, I understand what it takes to protect your family legally—and how gut-wrenching these conversations can be.

I want to make these conversations easier for new parents to have.

Here are the 5 essential legal questions you should ask yourselves when you’re pregnant or a parent—

1. Have we named a long-term guardian?

No parent ever wants to plan for what happens to their kids if they were to die or become unable to care for their children. But having the courage to have these conversations is one of the most important things you can do for your kids. 69% of people have not named legal guardians for their children—meaning if something were to happen to them, their children are at risk of going into state or local care without a clear guardian plan in place. To avoid this, you must sit down and have the difficult discussion about who you want to raise your child in the event you can’t. I know this is hard to talk about. It will be difficult. No one will raise your children the exact way you would. There is no replacement for you. But this difficult conversation is a wonderfully brave way you can prepare your family for your worst-case scenario.

2. Have we named a temporary guardian?

So many of the people that do think of naming a guardian only consider long-term care, but what about the short term? In the case that you were unable to make it home from work to pick up the kids or relieve the babysitter, who would care for your children? In the event that you and your husband finally get that date night you’ve been longing for, and God forbid end up in an accident and are unable to get to the kids, what happens? It is so important, and in fact necessary, that you plan for such unlikely events so that your children don’t end up being dragged into the system. Aim for someone trustworthy and easily accessible to make sure your children can be cared for in the event that you and/or your partner become incapacitated.

3. Does our caregiver know what to do in an emergency?

Your caregiver needs proper instructions in the event of an emergency. Does your babysitter know who your named guardians are? How to find their contact info? Do they know where your guardianship papers are so that they can provide them to the authorities if necessary? Your children will only end up with the guardians you select if the caregiver is aware of the named guardians and has access to the paperwork. You can download and use my Caregiver Emergency Sheet.

4. Have we thought about more than financial resources when naming guardians?

Most people I talk to about naming guardians are most concerned with how their children will be brought up, with common concerns being religious, political and spiritual beliefs. Yet, their initial instinct is to choose someone with the financial resources to raise their children. While being able to financially support your child is definitely an issue, your goal should be to name someone that alleviates your fears about not being able to raise your children yourself. This often leads to a choice—usually the right choice—of someone who will raise your child the closest to how you would if you were able. If you can, choose a person who shares your values.

5. Have we put a complete Estate Plan in place?

A will is not enough. That little squishy face that changed your entire life will not be completely protected by a will alone. It’s best to have a complete estate plan in place, including a trust that will pass assets privately to named trustees that you choose in advance.

It may seem like something you don’t need to worry about because odds are, nothing will happen. Or it may seem like a daunting task to think of how you want to address these topics. However, the truth is that if you think about it for just a short time and take a small amount of time out of your day, you can ensure your children are protected for a lifetime. I wouldn’t want anything less for my children and think it’s safe to say you feel the same.

To help you start thinking about your choices, you can download the 6 Common Mistakes Parents Make when Choosing a Guardian.

This article is sponsored by Katie Charleston Law. A version of this article was originally published on the Katie Charleston Law Blog.

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    But it can also feel a bit overwhelming to make sense of all the gear on the market. That's why we suggest mentally dividing your registry into two categories: items you need to prepare for your baby's arrival and items that sure would be nice to have.

    Here at Motherly, our editors have dozens of kids and years of parenting experience among us, so we know our way around the essentials. We also know how mama-friendly the registry-building experience is with Target, especially thanks to their recently upgraded registry and introduction of Year of Benefits. Just by creating your baby registry with Target, you'll snag a kit with $120 in discounts and samples. The savings keep coming: You'll also get two 15% off coupons to buy unpurchased items from your registry for up to a year after your baby's expected arrival. Change your mind about anything? The Year of Benefits allows for returns or exchanges for a full year. And as of August 2020, those who also sign up for Target Circle when creating a baby registry will also get the retailer's Year of Exclusive Deals, which includes ongoing discounts on baby essentials for a full year.

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    Delta Children Farmhouse 6-in-1 Convertible Crib

    First-time mamas are likely creating nursery spaces for the first time, and that can get expensive. Adding a quality crib to Target registry gives friends and family members the option to join forces to make a large purchase through group gifting.


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    Safety 1st OnBoard 35 LT Infant Car Seat

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    Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

    It's hard to beat a good playard when it comes to longevity. This item can be baby's sleeping place when they're sharing a room with you for the first months. Down the line, it can function as a roving diaper change station. And when you travel, it makes a great safe space for your little one to sleep and play.


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    4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

    A dependable swing can be a real lifesaver for new parents when they need their hands free (or just a minute to themselves). Because many babies are opinionated about these things, we appreciate that the mamaRoo has multiple modes of motion and soothing sounds.


    An easy-to-clean high chair

    Ingenuity SmartClean Trio Elite 3-in-1 High Chair - Slate

    Our best registry advice? Think ahead. It really won't be long before your child is ready for those first bites of solid food, at which point you'll need a high chair. We like one that transitions to a booster seat atop an existing dining room chair.


    A diaper bag to share

    Eddie Bauer Backpack - Gray/Tan

    When you're a mom, you're usually toting diapers, wipes, clothing changes, bottles, snacks, toys and more. You need a great bag to stash it all, and if you're anything like us, you'll choose a backpack style for comfort and functionality. Bonus: This gender neutral option can easily be passed off to your partner.


    A hygienic spot for all those diaper changes

    Munchkin Secure Grip Waterproof Diaper Changing Pad 16X31"

    We can confidently predict there will be a lot of diaper changes in your future. Do yourself a favor by registering for two comfortable, wipeable changing pads: one to keep in the nursery and another to stash elsewhere in your house.


    A way to keep an eye on your baby at night

    Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor DXR-8

    Feeling peace of mind while your baby sleeps in another room truly is priceless.That's why we advocate for a quality video monitor that will allow you to keep tabs on your snoozing sweetheart.


    A comfortable carrier to free up your hands

    Petunia Pickle Bottom for Moby Wrap Baby Carrier, Strolling in Salvador

    A wrap carrier may be about as low-tech as baby items come, but trust us, this product stands the test of time. Great for use around the house or while running errands, this is one item you'll appreciate so much.


    A full set of bottles + cleaning supplies

    Dr. Brown's Options+ Complete Baby Bottle Gift Set

    Whether you plan to work in an office or stay at home, breastfeed or formula feed, bottles are a valuable tool. To make your life as simple as possible, it's nice to have an easy-to-clean set that is designed to work through the first year.


    Target's baby registry is easy to create from the comfort of your own home. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with the Year of Benefits featuring exclusive deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

    This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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