Creating your estate plan comes with a myriad of decisions and considerations. In addition to determining how you will divide your assets, if you are parent of young children, you will also need to select a guardian, should something happen to you and your spouse while you still have dependent minors. Determining a guardian for your children in advance is an excellent way to ensure your children are taken care of per your wishes. There are several things to consider during the selection process.
- What is the guardian’s purpose – There are two distinctly different types of guardian scenarios to consider. One is an individual who is the guardian of the estate, and the other is the guardian of your children. The guardian of your estate manages the money and assets that are held by a minor. This type of guardianship can take place whether a parent is living or deceased. An individual who is selected as the guardian of your children will take on the role of the parent if you and your spouse die, are incapacitated or are unable to care for your children.
- The best person for the job – It is important to take into account the skills of the individuals you are considering for a guardian position. While you can appoint the same individual to take on both roles, bear in mind their ability to do so before you make your final choice.
- More than one individual – In addition to choosing separate individuals to take on the different guardian roles, if you have more than one child you can also select different guardians for each estate and each child. This might be a consideration if you have a large family and don’t want to burden any one individual. While this might be an easy decision when having multiple estate guardians, selecting several individuals as guardians of your children should come with serious thought as it could entail splitting them into different living arrangements.
- Values – When selecting a guardian for your children, consider the values of that individual. Are they similar to the ones with which you have been raising your children? Do they have comparable parenting styles and goals for your children’s future. In addition, consider their character. Are they someone a court would approve to raise your children?
- Financially stable – Is the individual you are considering in a financial position to care for your children? Do they have the resources to properly raise and educate them per your wishes?
- Age – Is your intended guardian young enough to see your child through to adulthood? Are they in good health and do they have the ability to handle the stresses that come with raising children?
- Get it in writing – Once you have made your decisions for guardianship, consult a qualified and trusted estate planning attorney to draft the necessary paperwork. This will ensure that your wishes are legally binding.