5 Tips for Choosing Guardianship for Minors
While contemplating a last will and testament, the distribution of your assets after death is always at the forefront of preparation. However, it may not be the most important part of the task. One of the hardest — and probably most important — parts of your will, given you have minor children, is naming a guardian for your children in case both parents die prior to the children becoming age of majority.
As hard as the question is, it is obviously critical to answer. Very often while drafting estate plans, a legal expert must help clients get past this roadblock or risk having a judge making the final decision. Having a process to guide you through the decision is important.
The following list details some important considerations you should address during that process:
1. Make a potential list. Be open-minded. Although family members, such as grandparents, uncles and aunts seem like the obvious answer, your search need not be limited to those individuals alone. Close friends can make excellent guardians as well.
2. Be aware of your own parenting style, and choose someone who shares similar ideas. Some core beliefs and values that should be analyzed are morals, religion, education and social circles.
3. Understand the physical and financial requirements to care for your children. For example, a child’s grandparents should be considered. They would most likely cherish this opportunity. However, are you confident they can physically do the job? Age and finances may hinder their capabilities. The financial limitations can usually be remedied through proper financial planning, such as providing for child-rearing funds through a trust, or simply getting additional life insurance with the guardian as the beneficiary.
4. Determine if your minor children will feel comfortable with your choice. The comfort level of the children after losing both parents should be a primary concern. If the chosen guardian is someone with whom the children have spent time in the past, it may be able to ease the pain. In addition, the location of the guardian should be considered as moving can add to a child’s trauma. You should definitely discuss the options with the children (if they are mature enough) and gather their input.
5. Be sure your choices are ready and willing. Although, they may seem like a great choice, they may not want or be willing to accept such a great responsibility. It is wise to discuss the issue with potential guardians and come to an agreement in advance.
Remember, the will only takes effect upon death, so preparing designation of guardianship in event of incapacity should also be drafted by your estate planning attorney. Most minors reach 18 years of age with at least one of their parents alive, so the named guardian will typically not be called upon. However, planning for the worst and hoping for the best should be the mantra.