Estates: Picking the right guardian for your children is imperative
Our neighborhood is teeming with children. Our cul-de-sac is home to children age 6 months to 21 years. When school is in session, I am reminded of the vitality their mere existence breathes into our corner of Glenview.
In fact, there is an image of childhood vitality that I missed desperately while schools were closed for winter break. It was that of a school-aged young man in our neighborhood.
I deduce he is a student at the fine educational establishment known as Lyon School. I can say this for two reasons. First, I am a proud Lyon School graduate. Second, the road he travels in the morning or afternoon, depending on when his path intersects with mine, tells me he is a back door walker at Lyon School.
The young man is always accompanied by an adult, sometimes a parent and sometimes a young lady that must be his sitter. It is the walks with his sitter that are remarkable to me.
He walks most days hand in hand with his sitter. When he is with her, the young man's body language is undeniably one of love and trust. Some mornings they are holding hands that swing back and forth effortlessly. On other days, their hands are quiet, occasionally with both of the sitter's hands clasped around the young man's left hand.
Their afternoon reunions have different energies, too. Sometimes, the young man barrels down the back door walker foot path at breakneck speed into the young lady's arms. Other afternoons I've observed the young man's gate as measured, perhaps weighed down by the press of the school day.
Regardless of the young man's energy, there are two hallmarks of their every exchange. One, the young lady bids him adieu and greets him on his level, which means on her squatted knees. Two, the young lady wraps the young man up in both of her arms.
Why do I share this tale of a neighborhood boy and his sitter? Not because the young man's exchanges with his parents are devoid of love and tenderness. Rather, it is because of how every exchange between the boy and his sitter is punctuated with the love and care of a parent.
Friends, this is what guardianship looks like in real life. When a client is discerning who will be a guardian of his child, should a guardian be needed, this story is top of mind. Often, I will even share the story to help a parent discern and answer the guardian question: who is fit to be the guardian of my child if I am not living?
To be sure, the question is tough. It brings every single parent face to face with his mortality and how his mortality will, undoubtedly, impact his child. However, if you have not documented a guardian for your child in a will, may this story be an invitation to do so.
And if the thought of signing a will is too hard, then name the guardian in a short-term guardianship appointment so you have a legal document at the ready. If you have a will that names a guardian, then find the will, read it and make sure the guardian is still a good fit for the role. If the guardian is not a good fit, update the will.
Like many parents, I was eager for school to resume. Even a January punctuated with snow and below freezing temperatures has not deterred my young neighbor and his sitter in their travels to and from Lyon School.
This afternoon, their reunion brought a much-needed smile to my face.
I hope their story compels you to plan for the unexpected and how it may impact your child.
• Corinne Cantwell Heggie is a principal of the Wochner Law Firm LLC in Northbrook. Corinne helps people avoid asset loss, court battles and taxes with wills, trusts and powers of attorney. Corinne lives in Glenview with her husband and law partner, where her family is active in sports, ministries that support women and children in crisis, and Boy Scouts.