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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Planning for the Unexpected

It’s Tuesday morning.  Your husband just left for a business trip to Venezuela.  In the family room, 2-year old Sophia is amusing herself while waiting for Jennifer, the 16-year old new neighbor who has been babysitting a few mornings this summer.  It’s your special time to run errands or get in some exercise.  Today is the perfect day to try out a new pair of rollerblades. 

Lace up.  Ear buds in.  Sunscreen on.  You tell Jennifer you’ll be back in about 90 minutes and off you go to the local park.  It’s unusually quiet this morning.  While skating along at a fast pace, you hit a rock , lose your balance and fly wildly out of control into a swale of  high grass,  where you hit your head hard and everything goes dark...

Luckily a jogger finds you and calls 911.  You are transported to a hospital but are unconscious.  With no identification found on you, the hospital doesn’t know who you are or whom to call.

Hours later, Jennifer becomes concerned when you don’t return home as expected.  She calls your cell phone, but there’s no answer.  She also tries your husband’s number which goes directly to voice mail.  Afternoon arrives and Jennifer begins to really worry.  She has plans of her own, and you were supposed to be home hours ago.   What should she do?  She calls her own mother who says, “Call the police.”

Two uniformed officers arrive and ask questions.  They check police reports and hospitals.  There is an unidentified woman at a local hospital who may be the missing mom, but she is unconscious.  The police evaluate the situation and determine that there is no family member present to take care of Sophia. What happens next is a parent’s nightmare.  Your daughter is now in the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Is our story far fetched?  Probably.  But while this type of scenario is not likely to happen to your family, it reminds us to make sure we plan for the unexpected.  At a minimum, every family should have standard written babysitter instructions which include contact information for family members and friends who should be contacted, if parents cannot be reached.  In addition, an attorney can help to prepare a Power of Attorney for Childcare which can include authorization for the care, custody, medical care, and even travel for your minor children.

It is certainly not necessary to consult an attorney to put together babysitter instructions.  This is something that parents can create on their own.  However, other legal documents are best prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney who can offer counsel and ensure that documents are properly prepared and executed.   You want to make sure your legal documents work when you need them. 

Remember that having a family plan for the unexpected may help to keep small incidents from becoming big problems.

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