Some of the clients who seek our estate planning advice are parents of small children whose primary goal in creating an estate plan is to protect their children. This includes providing for their immediate financial needs, ensuring they will have the means to receive an education, and so forth, but often the very first question these parents ask is about guardianship. Most often they want guidance in choosing the best person to care for their children when they are gone, but sometimes a client asks if there is a way to keep their children out of the hands of abusive or irresponsible relatives. The answer is a resounding “yes”.
Of course, the first thing you should do to keep your children safe from an unsuitable guardian is to execute a Nomination of Guardians in which you name the people who would be good and loving parents. But beyond that, you can execute an Exclusion of Guardians (also known as an Anti-Nomination of Guardians). In this document you name the person or couple who should under no circumstances receive guardianship of your children. You may, in the document, state the reasons why your child should be kept out of the care of this person, but it is not always necessary.
For many parents, the excluded guardian is often a member of their extended family, and they fear that executing so strong a document might break the peace. For this reason, you can request that the Exclusion of Guardians be kept completely confidential. Unless and until the excluded guardian tries to gain guardianship over your children there is really no need for anyone except you and your attorney to be aware of its existence.
There are many valid reasons to execute an Exclusion of Guardians; alcoholism, history of abuse, mental illness, extreme financial irresponsibility, and more. How is a judge or court to know of these reasons unless you tell them? And that is exactly what an Exclusion of Guardians does. If you have any fears along these lines talk to your attorney. You hope the document will never need to be used—never even be seen by any eyes other than your own—but the peace of mind it can bring is invaluable.