Estate Planning for Beginners Part 5: Guardians of Minor Children
July 5, 2011
Quite often, an individual or couple’s decision to finally create an estate plan is motivated by a strong need to ensure that their minor children will be protected and provided for. This kind of planning for young children often begins with choosing the person or couple who will care for and raise the children if the parents pass away. But what many parents find is that choosing people who will serve as guardians of their young children is not as easy as they first imagine. In fact, it can be the most difficult and most emotional part of creating an estate plan.
For some families choosing guardians is easy—they simply pick a sibling or parent who is close to their children and who shares a similar parenting philosophy, but for other families the choice is not as clear. The following questions may be helpful ones to keep in mind when considering who may be in the best position to serve as guardian for your young children.
- Is the person someone your child already knows and with whom he or she feels comfortable?
- Does the person live in the same state as you and your child, or will your guardian or child have to relocate?
- Does the person share a similar parenting philosophy with you?
- Is the person married? Does he or she have children already? Are they in a position to welcome another child into their lives?
- Does your potential guardian work or stay home? Would this change if they were to accept guardianship of your child?
- If family is important to you, would your guardian ensure that your child had opportunities to spend time with your extended family?
- Would this person serve as both guardian and trustee until your child came of age, or would you choose two people for these roles—one as guardian and one as trustee?
These are just a few of the many questions you may want to keep in mind when considering a guardian for your child.
In rare circumstances there may be a person you want to explicitly bar from ever gaining custody of your child—an abusive aunt or uncle, or a sibling with a dangerous addiction. In these cases it may be prudent to create an anti-nomination of guardians, a document in which you name the person or couple who should under no circumstances receive guardianship of your children.
We know that these plans concerning the future and care of your children are possibly the most important you will ever make; and we know you’ll want to ensure you make them with the best information and most trusted guidance available. Give these comments thought when you prepare your estate plan.
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