If you have a child under the age of 18, you should formally designate a legal guardian (or co-guardians) in the event you or your children’s other parent pass away. If you don’t go through the legal process of designating a guardian for your child, a court will select who will care for your child — and it won’t necessarily be who you would choose.
Though picking a guardian is a very personal decision, the following are items that everyone should consider:
- Designate more than one guardian. Better safe than sorry — in case something happens to your main guardian, choose and name a successor (or two!) to be the back-up.
- If you select a couple to serve together, decide and document what happens if only one spouse or partner is able to be a guardian. Stuff happens. The co-guardians you selected could divorce or split up — or one of them could become incapacitated or pass away. We can assist you in detailing what you would like to happen. (For example, you might decide either guardian can serve alone or that you’d rather have someone else entirely step in instead.)
- Don’t make a potential guardian’s financial resources the major consideration. Pick a guardian that will take good care of your children and raise them with the same values and priorities as you. That isn’t necessarily the same person you would choose to be in charge of your kids’ money, and it doesn’t have to be. You can leave money for your children’s care to a trust to ensure it’s managed properly by a trustee of your choice.
- Specifically exclude any family members you know you don’t want to care for your kids. In some circumstances, it’s important to document who you don’t want in addition to who you do want to serve as guardian.
- Establish a trust, which can reduce the involvement of the probate court and increase your children’s privacy.
If you don’t specify a legal guardian for your child, you are leaving this immensely important decision up to strangers. Contact Freed Marcroft to learn more about selecting a guardian and other estate planning topics.