Naming Godparents Does Not Create Legal Guardians

As we start this holiday season, it’s a great time to think about the love of our families. I hope you are blessed this holiday season and will have the opportunity to make many wonderful memories with loved ones.

As a parent, my top priority, of course, was the well-being and future of my children. I am sure that is one of your top priorities as well. You plan for your children’s future, their education, their health, and their happiness.

Godparents

Often, this planning includes the tradition of choosing godparents to guide and mentor your children if something happens to you. A godparent is traditionally someone you name to watch over your child and help them live according to your morals and values. Godparents are meant to be mentors and role models, guiding your child in matters of faith, morality, and character. The role of a godparent is deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions.

While selecting godparents may be a meaningful tradition, it’s important to understand that naming a godparent is not the same thing as naming a legal guardian for your children. To put it bluntly, even if your child has godparents, if something happens to you, your children could end up in the care of strangers, child protective services, or in the long-term care of someone you would never want raising your children.

Legal Guardians

Naming a legal guardian for your child is a formal, legal process. A legal guardian is someone who has the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of your child, especially if you, as the parent, are unable to do so. This could occur due to your passing, incapacity, or even a temporary situation where you are not available to provide care or make important legal, financial, healthcare, or education decisions for your child. The responsibilities of a legal guardian encompass every area of your child’s life that you would normally manage as a parent. This includes everything from feeding and clothing your child to deciding where they go to school, attending parent-teacher meetings, and which extracurricular activities they participate in. Legal guardianship also includes the decisions about where your child lives and what medical treatment they should or should not receive.

Why Naming Godparents Isn’t Enough

While godparents may be deeply caring and involved in your child’s life, they have no legal authority to make decisions for your child unless they are officially appointed as legal guardians by the court. That means that until that happens (if it happens), your child’s godparents are not legally able to make any decisions for your children, including their basic care needs, education, and medical care.

Without a legal guardian designation (and, ideally, more than one) in writing and signed with the formalities of a Will, godparents may find themselves in an expensive court battle over custody rights, and they may not even be named as the legal guardians of your children at all. In fact, the court could name someone you would never want raising your kids as their legal guardian.

Life-long Legal Protection for Kids

If you’ve already chosen people you trust to serve as lifelong role models and spiritual guardians for your children as their godparents, why not give those people the legal authority to truly perform those duties if something happens to you?

But don’t stop there. The best way to keep your children safe and secure is to create a comprehensive protection plan that keeps your children in the care of the people you choose, no matter what. Ensure your children are protected. Ensure that the authorities know who to contact in an emergency and who can authorize prompt medical care. Make sure your children are never placed in protective custody – even for a minute.

Paying It Forward: How to Build Your Legacy Through Mentoring

I can readily look back and see those people who have profoundly impacted my success, both as a child and as an adult. I had, and still have, teachers and mentors that helped me build my character and ultimately assisted me in becoming successful. I couldn’t have done it without them. I will forever be grateful!

Opportunities to mentor abound. Have you tried it? One of the ways that I give back now is through the youth group at my church. Every Wednesday evening, you will find me sitting on the floor in a room with 7th-grade girls. Why? Because I know how important having a mentor can be and I have an opportunity to play a role in the lives of these young women.

By investing time and effort in mentoring, you demonstrate the essence of leadership and envision a brighter future for the coming generations by actively nurturing and passing on knowledge to younger individuals.

Mentees benefit when they are encouraged to pursue their goals and work towards a brighter future. Not only does mentoring give you the opportunity to invest in the life of another person, but it can also provide you with a unique perspective on your life and a chance to create a lasting impact in the community. As you engage in the mentorship process, you’ll find yourself reflecting on your own goals, seeking to provide a valuable experience for those you mentor.

As an Estate Planning lawyer, I recognize that true success and satisfaction arise from building a legacy that reflects who you are and your values as a leader- both personally and professionally. I have adopted a heart-centered approach to help individuals define and build their estate plans and their legacies. To discover how I can assist you in achieving your vision, schedule a free 15-minute call to discuss your plans and dreams for your family and your future.

Adulting 101

In today’s rapidly changing world, young adults often find themselves navigating a multitude of responsibilities and decisions as they embark on their journeys toward independence. While estate planning might seem like a topic more relevant to older generations, it holds a crucial significance for young adults as well. The truth is unforeseen circumstances can affect anyone at any stage of life, underscoring the importance of having essential estate planning documents in place. These documents provide a sense of security and control over one’s future and offer a practical way to ensure that one’s wishes are honored in situations that may involve medical emergencies, financial uncertainties, or unexpected life events. As such, young adults (and their parents) increasingly recognize the value of establishing these foundational legal instruments early on to safeguard their well-being and protect their assets.

What legal documents do your young adults need when they turn 18?

It’s great that you’re considering legal documents for a young adult at 18. At this point, individuals become legal adults and have certain rights and responsibilities. Some essential legal documents for a young adult to consider include:

1. Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document designates someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves.

2. Durable Power of Attorney: This grants someone the authority to manage their financial affairs if they become incapacitated.

3. Living Will: Also known as an advance directive, a living will outlines their preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care.

4. Last Will and Testament: While typically associated with older adults, it’s never too early to create a will to outline how they want their assets distributed in case of their passing.

5. HIPAA Authorization: This allows healthcare providers to share medical information with designated individuals.

6. Digital Assets: As technology becomes more integral to our lives, it’s important to consider what should happen to their online accounts and digital property after their passing.

Some additional legal documents to consider include:

7. Rental Agreement: If they’re moving out of their parent’s home or living independently, a rental agreement can help outline their responsibilities as a tenant.

8. Bank Account Documents: If they’re opening a bank account, they will likely need identification documents and possibly a parent or guardian’s signature if they’re under 18.

10. Student Loan Agreements: If they’re pursuing higher education and taking out loans, they should be aware of the terms and conditions of their loans.

Remember, legal requirements can vary from state to state, which is why it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney when your young adult is ready to set up their first estate plan.

Why do parents want to have their 18-year-old child’s legal documents in order?

Parents often want to ensure that their 18-year-old child has their legal documents in order for several important reasons:

1. Healthcare Decisions: Legal documents like a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will can allow parents to make medical decisions on their child’s behalf if they cannot do so themselves. This becomes crucial in case of accidents, emergencies, or medical situations where the young adult cannot communicate their wishes.

2. Financial Management: With a Durable Power of Attorney, parents can manage their child’s financial affairs if the child becomes incapacitated. This can be especially helpful when the young adult is away at college or living independently and needs assistance with financial matters.

3. Peace of Mind: Parents naturally worry about their children’s well-being. Knowing that their child has taken steps to address important legal matters can provide parents with peace of mind, knowing that their child’s interests are protected even if they are not directly involved in every decision.

4. Asset Distribution: While it might not be pleasant to think about, having a Last Will and Testament ensures that the young adult’s assets are distributed according to their wishes in case of their passing. This can help prevent confusion, disputes, and potential legal issues among family members.

5. Privacy and Communication: Documents like HIPAA Authorization allow parents to access their child’s medical information and communicate with healthcare providers if necessary. This can be critical in situations where quick decisions need to be made about medical treatment.

6. Transition to Independence: As young adults transition to independence, having these legal documents in place empowers them to take control of their own lives while still having a safety net in case of unexpected events.

7. Avoiding Legal Complications: Without proper legal documentation, parents might face challenges in accessing their child’s medical or financial information, making decisions on their behalf, or managing their affairs if needed. These challenges can be avoided with the appropriate legal documents in place.

8. Educational and Employment Needs: Some legal documents, such as what is needed when signing rental agreements or managing student loans, might be necessary as young adults pursue higher education or enter the workforce.

By helping your young adult put their first estate plan in order, you, as a parent, demonstrate your support, care, and commitment to your child’s well-being and future. It teaches your young adult responsibility and becomes a great lesson that will benefit your child as they move through life. If you have any further questions about what legal documents your young adult might need, or you are ready to make some moves and start to get these in order, contact Cris Carter Law today.

Make Family Communication All That it Can Be!

No relationship is immune to conflict. Sooner or later, you, your partner, your children, and others in a relationship with you are bound to not see eye-to-eye about something. Research shows it is how you handle communication with others that will determine both the health and success of your relationships. And we all want our relationships to be as healthy as possible, right? Check out the infographic below from The Gottman Institute. Perhaps you have never heard of The Gottman Institute. The Gottman Institute is a resource that I have followed for years and that I have found to have great value in helping me understand how to communicate with others more successfully. What I have learned from The Gottman Institute has benefitted me personally, professionally, and in every aspect of life, which is why I am sharing it with you. I encourage you to learn about The Four Horsemen. Even more important is learning how to avoid having The Four Horsemen be part of your communication patterns. You can access more information from The Gottman Institute here.

Tips for Your July 4th Holiday Weekend

Make Sure You Have All Your Fourth of July Party Supplies

Whether you are heading out to your backyard, or getting together with family or friends, the Fourth of July holiday is the unofficial start to summer and backyard party season. Here is a quick checklist to make your Fourth of July planning easier. Make it even easier by asking others to help. 

Fourth of July Party Checklist

  • Folding table, picnic table, festive tablecloth & napkins (maybe even a centerpiece!)
  • Lawn Chairs, folding chairs, camp chairs, umbrellas, or shade tents
  • Paper or plastic plates, cups, and eating utensils
  • Plenty of fresh water; a water dispenser & a cooler
  • Smores sticks, marshmallows, chocolates, and graham crackers
  • Bug spray, sunscreen, citronella candles
  • Flags, party favors, fireworks
  • Sprinkler, pool, water guns
  • Music, playing device, portable speakers
  • Backyard games, cornhole, dodge ball, badminton, Twister, or cards
  • First Aid kit
  • Towels, blankets
  • Paper towels and cleanup supplies

Now that the party is underway plan for a SAFE 4th of July. Here are a few tips to keep everyone safe during the festivities.

4th of July Safety Tips

  1. Before using any fireworks, read the instructions and labels carefully.
  2. Designate one responsible adult to monitor and be responsible for all Fireworks. Ensure your firework handler wears protective eyewear when handling and igniting fireworks.
  3. Create a Safe Area where you plan to ignite the fireworks. Ensure that friends and family are at a safe distance away and that trees, shelters, or shrubbery are not in the trajectory of the fireworks.
  4. Know where your water source is should anything unexpected occur. Keep a filled bucket of water handy. (the dog will love that!)
  5. Keep a keen eye out for the kids and people that act like kids during the fireworks.
  6. Have everyone maintain a safe distance from the fireworks to protect them from potential harm.
  7. Trash fireworks that didn’t light. Don’t relight. Wait and then soak those fireworks in water before disposing of them properly.
  8. Protect Your Pets! If your pet doesn’t like the noise of fireworks, leave them at home. If you bring your pet with you, make sure they are cool and comfortable. Their paws are sensitive and burn on the hot pavement just like your hand would. If it is too hot to touch for 10 seconds, it is too hot for your pet.

Better Together!

Today is a huge happy Tuesday for me, and I am beyond excited to share my joy. But first, for those who don’t know my story, let me share some bits and pieces with you.

I was raised in Florida, was educated in Florida, raised my family in Florida, and practiced law in Florida. Fifty years of life in Florida, and I never thought I would ever leave Florida.

As we know, life changes, and at the prospect of my grandchildren being born and raised in Colorado, Florida lost its hold on me. I happily moved to Colorado to assume my grandmotherly role and become CoCo (my grandmother name). What could be more perfect than a part-time position on Tuesdays and Thursdays where love, relationships, connection, stretching, and learning with the grandchildren was the reality? My life was beyond wonderful.

But, as we all know, sometimes life changes, and the unexpected happens. When my husband died, I hurt. Frankly, I had never experienced such a tremendous loss, and I didn’t think I could go on. However, there were others that were not willing to let me give up. With the love and support of my children, grandchildren, and many close friends in Colorado and Florida, life changed. It looked different, but it did go on. I developed a new rhythm because I had to. And two short years later (time pretty much stands still as you grieve the loss of someone you dreamed of living out your life with), my daughter and her family announced that they were moving to Dallas, Texas.

They were kind and invited me to move with them to Dallas. However, it just didn’t seem like I should tag along. So, I stayed put. And again, I grieved a loss. I hurt, and I was alone. I spent a lot of time in Dallas. I would go to Dallas for holidays, special occasions, and grandchildren’s events. A new rhythm developed. Not ideal, but the best I could make of it.

And it bears repeating that we all know that sometimes life changes and the unexpected happens. And so it does. I have been walking on cloud nine as my daughter and family announced at the end of last year that they were coming home to Fort Collins. And today is THE day that they arrive!!!!

This (grand)mother’s HEART is so full. Not much more to say than that. So let me leave you with words from Jack Johnson’s song, “Better Together:”

“Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart.

Like why are we here? And where do we go? And how come it’s so hard?

It’s not always easy, and sometimes life can be deceiving.

—- Well, it’s always better when we’re together.

Yeah, it’s always better when we’re together!”

Listen to the full song here.

It’s The Most Magical Time Of The Year… Camp CoCo!

Camp CoCo

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

There is a coolness in the air today, which is a sign that fall is on the way. I will welcome the fall season this year, given the challenge we have endured through the past hot, hot summer months.

I hope your summertime was great. Mine has been a summer filled with wonder. For the first several months, the wonder came from you, the clients I serve. I feel blessed to meet and work with such special people. What I get to do every day is life-giving because of you all. To have that as the backdrop for Camp CoCo, which happens in August every summer, prepares me for the joy of being with grandchildren.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. So my estate planning advice for you as we move into fall is to make memories with those you love now! Let me share what making memories looked like for me this summer and how simple that can be.

Every August, I spend one-on-one quality time with my children and grandchildren at Camp CoCo. It is fast, fun, and full of delight. Most everyone knows me as Cris Carter, but my loved ones call me CoCo- hence Camp CoCo. CoCo was the name I chose 12 years ago with the birth of my first grandchild. I can’t believe it has been 12 years, but that is another story for another time.

Camp CoCo has become a family tradition where I get first-class time with my three grandchildren in Colorado. If you have seen me this summer, you know my face lights up when I think or talk about Camp CoCo. It is a challenging time as I find fun, stimulating, wholesome activities for the “grands” who are now twelve, ten, and eight and live in Texas. The days at Camp CoCo are some of the best days of my life, bar none.

The highlights of the 2022 Camp CoCo event included a couple of nights at the Great Wolf Lodge in Colorado Springs, a trip to the newly rebuilt Flying W Ranch also in Colorado Springs, the Larimer County Rodeo, a melodrama titled “To be ORE not to be” at Gold Hill, Colorado, just outside of Boulder and a stay in Winter Park Colorado. And, yes, after Camp CoCo is over, I need a lot of R & R!

From the perspective of the “grands,” they gave the highest score this year to celebrating old-time Colorado tradition at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs. The Flying W is a working mountain cattle ranch that has provided family education and entertainment in the foothills of Colorado Springs, Colorado, since 1953. I lived in Colorado Springs in 2012 when the Waldo Canyon Fire destroyed the Flying W and was delighted that they were able to rebuild and reopen in 2020. That was also the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is quite a testimony to the grit and resilience of the Flying W Ranch family that visitors can enjoy the nostalgia of the old west once again.

The Flying W is open daily from May to October and features western-style living. With its humble beginnings as a mountain cattle ranch in 1947, the Flying W Ranch is a living symbol of western heritage and has many opportunities for adults and children alike. I suggest you arrive early so you can fully enjoy the fun activities, including:

  • Hands-on with the Ranch animals, including oxen, miniature horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, chickens, and turkeys
  • A hayride on the Percheron horses
  • Riding the train through Christmas Rock Train Tunnel
  • Watching the native Indian Sweetwater Plains Dancers around the open campfire
  • Watching Navajo rug weavers and silversmiths
  • Viewing a horseshoeing demonstration
  • Ranges where you can test your skills at axe throwing and archery

Here is a short video to glimpse the fun and beauty of the Flying W Ranch.

The Ranch is open until October 3, 2022, and will have special Christmas shows in December 2022. I highly recommend visiting the ranch sooner than later with your loved ones. You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. So as my estate planning advice as we move into fall, I say make those memories with those you love now!