The first thing to decide on would be who the kids would actually live with - and they'll need someone to provide a home base at least until they're legal adults at 18. That should be spelled out in a will, or you'll be leaving it to the rest of the family to sort it out for themselves, with results that could be totally different than you'd have wanted, not to mention perhaps contrary to the kids' best interests.
I mean, you certainly love your bachelor brother in Manhattan, or your sister in Nebraska who's already got a brood to keep her busy, but are they ready, willing and able to alter their lifestyles to do their best for your gang? And is either of those locales where you'd want the kids to grow up, no matter how well they might be cared for there? Or let's say you pick your thoughtful and caring parents, whom the kids love but who may not be able to hang in there as long as the kids might need them. An alternate choice would certainly be wise under those circumstances. Keep in mind, too, that your picks don't have to be family members at all, if you've got friends close by whom the kids think of as aunts and uncles and whose children are your own kids' best buds. But you've got to name those folks in your wills for sure, because most courts aren't going to choose friends over family otherwise.
Alright, let's assume you're over that first hurdle of who it's going to be, and you've gotten their OK to stand in for you should the need arise - you need to do that, too, of course. Now you might want to provide them with your parenting plan, preferably in writing, without sounding like you're a know-it-all or don't really trust the folks you're counting on. I've seen this done both well and very badly, but the best statements usually make your points by describing a typical day or week in the life of your present family. So, for instance, do the kids have chores and help out a lot; are they pretty conscientious about their homework or do you need to make sure the dog hasn't eat it; how do you feel about technology and all those social media distractions; and do you monitor the kids' every coming and going or generally trust them to make the right choices? You get the picture, and you'll want your stand-ins to get it, too, even if they decide to alter the rules as they see fit. After all, you do trust them, right, or you'd make another choice? Then, like everything else in life that morphs over time, you can adjust your thoughts in a new version as the kids get older, prove their good judgment and responsibility - we all hope - and make the honor roll or spend their afternoons in makeup study hall. Don't fret, I'm sure your exceptional parenting will shine through.
Posted 10/23/2015 Estate Planning