Learn how to handle common difficulties in choosing a guardian.
If you're a parent, part of your estate planning should include naming a guardian for your children. Many parents put off estate planning because they aren't able to decide on a guardian. Should something happen to you as parents, the guardian you name would step in and take care of your children. If you have a named guardian, that person would be give the authority, baring any serious reason they shouldn't, to take care of your child.
If you haven't put a provision like this in place, the court would have to choose someone without any guidance from you. Typically this is a family member, but that may not be who you would choose. But without the proper planning in place, the court would have no way of knowing what your wishes were. This decision could be very important especially if you are a blended family.
There is a lot of responsibility placed on the guardian you name. It's no wonder parents can struggle with this decision and may find their selves stuck. However, the following tips may help make this choice a bit easier for you:
“The guardian I'd like to name is older than I am”
Instead of focusing on the long-term picture, pick the person you'd like to have in the guardian role now. You can always reevaluate the named guardian in the future should something happen to your older guardian choice. When considering a guardian, think about who you could take care of your children in the next three to five years.
“I'm afraid my family won't like the choice I made for a guardian”
Remember that your first responsibility it to your children and you'll want to make a choice that will serve them best. To avoid assumptive conversation among family members as to why you named the guardian you did, consider writing a letter of explanation that includes your thoughts on the guardian you've named. This might help reduce conflict and tension among family members that may feel there was a better choice.
“I am concerned my children won't like my guardian choice”
If your children are old enough, consider having a conversation with them offering your reasons for the guardian you've chosen. If you feel that your children are too young to have such a conversation, offering a letter of explanation can once again reduce conflict and tension.
“I don't like the spouse of my guardian choice”
What if only one person in a marriage is your choice for a guardian? That's OK! The couple doesn't have to serve together. You can name just the person you want to serve as guardians.
“I'm worried our blended family might create other complications”
Blended families are common these days, making guardianship choices even more complicated. Some parents name different guardians for the children of different marriages. Others make a plan that would keep all the children together. Remember that guardianship doesn't come into play at all if a child has a surviving parent, and that's more likely when their parents are not living or traveling together.
Choosing a guardian can be the hardest part of estate planning. For more help selecting the ideal guardian as well as creating your will, figuring out whether you need a living trust, and keeping your estate plan current, contact us for a complimentary consultation at 260-969-1177 or email [email protected]
Have you named a Guardian and Trustee for your children? Take it a step further with some specific instructions to assist your Guardian and Trustee if they need to make decisions for the benefit of your children. Offer valuable instructions and guidance on topics such as:
School and education options
Visitation with other family members
Keep a copy of this 10-page instructional document with your Estate Plan Portfolio. Include this when you come in for your annual review of your Estate Plan so we can ensure your instructions match up with your Trust documents. Don't have a Trust in place to protect your children? Contact us for an appointment to discuss why this is an important part of your planning.