When a Will is Not Enough: Name a Temporary Guardian

Where are your kids right now?  School? Childcare? Babysitter? What if. . .just what if, you and your spouse weren’t to make it home today?  I know, I know, it’s dark and not something you want to think about.  But just stick with me for a minute because stuff like this actually happens and it’s valuable to know the outcomes of the “what ifs.”

babysitter and kid waiting for parent.jpg

Okay, so really, who would the school call? Who would the sitter call? Maybe your emergency contact? Maybe the police? Most don’t know but calling the police is actually THE worst thing one could do in this situation.  That’s because if your emergency contact or sitter does not have the legal authority to retain physical custody of your children, the authorities would have no choice but to put your kids into child protective services. Whoa, right? Mind blown.

Approximately 69% of parents do not have proper documentation that gives another legal guardianship over their kids if something were to happen to them.  Of the 31% that do have it, it’s highly unlikely that most have the proper documentation to allow a temporary guardian to serve in this role.  A temporary guardian is someone local, maybe 20-30 minutes away, and is known as the “first responder.”  Since so many of our preferred permanent guardians live out of state or beyond this small sphere, having this documentation is critical to avoid risk of your kids being put in a very uncomfortable situation.  Most attorneys don’t address this issue, leaving their clients with a false security that if they have named a guardian in their Will, then their kids are protected.  This is so far from the truth.

A Will only takes effect if you die.  But what if you and your spouse are in an accident and in the hospital?  A Will does not address incapacitation, so in this situation, someone would have to petition a court to ask permission to care for your kids while you are “lights out.”  Not only would this drain your account due to court fees, but also leave your kids feeling uncertain and scared in an already fragile situation.

I am not writing this to terrify you.  Okay, maybe I am a little, but it’s for a valid reason.  I want to ensure that your kids are never at risk of being placed out of their comfort zone and into the hands of a state agency. I mean, it would be hard enough for your children to cope with the fact that you are not there.  Just understand first, that these consequences are real and second, that you can prevent them by taking the steps below. 


Name a Temporary Guardian

Naming First Responders will prevent your children from being taken into child protective services.

Naming First Responders will prevent your children from being taken into child protective services.

As highlighted above, your Will may indicate who your permanent guardian(s) are for your children, but a Will is not effective until you die so it won’t cover the situation if you are in an accident and/or incapacitated. Furthermore, if you have passed and your Will appoints someone who is not local, the kids may be put into protective custody until the permanent guardian arrives.  This situation is simple to remedy with the appointment of a Temporary Guardian or first responder. It is generally a good idea to have more than one first responder listed if your top priority is unavailable.  Maybe a neighbor or a friend, someone who could show up on moment’s notice.  Obvi, this person should also have the capability to stay with your kids until such time that your permanent guardian arrives. 

 Leave Instructions with the Temporary Guardian

You should inform your first responders to keep a copy of their temporary guardian appointment in a safe place.  If it’s ever needed, they will have to present this document to the police to show that they have legal authority to serve as guardian of your kids.  You should also inform your first responders of the name(s) and number(s) of your permanent guardians in your instructions so they know who to call.  

Leave Instructions for the Sitter

Every caretaker should be fully informed of the names and phone numbers of your first responders.  If the sitter can not get a hold of you, the sitter should not call the police until the temporary guardian has come to the rescue.  If the sitter calls the police without a legal guardian present, this may trigger child protective services.

Carry a card in your wallet as to who to call. 

Here’s a sample!


Carrying a small card in your wallet will allow authorities to locate the legal guardians for your children.

Carrying a small card in your wallet will allow authorities to locate the legal guardians for your children.

 Name a Permanent Guardian on a free-standing appointment

If you are the parent of minor children and have completed a Last Will and Testament, likely you have appointed an alternative guardian in your Will.  However, a free-standing Appointment of Guardian is preferred because, as stated above, it will protect if you are incapacitated because whereas your Will doesn’t effectuate until you have passed. 

 Leave your permanent guardian with a list of instructions

Your permanent guardians are going to be very trusted individuals.  Still, they likely don’t know the ins and outs of your kids lives.  It is recommended that you leave them a set of instruction with for example, the children’s doctors names, where the money is to raise the children, school information, their activities, religion if that’s important to you, and most of all your values.  You want someone to raise your kids with the same or similar set of values that you intended to raise them, right?  Write it down.  Your kids will thank you for it. 


You can do all of these steps yourself, or we can help you get started.  Visit my kids protection plan website, which will customize the document you need to get you on your way.

You can also contact our office to schedule an appointment for the complete and customized Kids Protection Plan™, including letters to your guardians and caretakers, confidential document of those that you absolutely DO NOT want raising your children, appointment of health care agents for your children and a Wallet ID card like the one above.