If you have minor children, it seems natural to assume that your spouse or the children’s other parent will be there to take care of them in the event of your death. But what if you are a single parent or if you both die before the children reach adulthood? The hard truth is, every time you step into a vehicle with your partner this is a realistic possibility. Who will step into the role of caregiver if the unthinkable happened?
Questions like these illustrate why it is vital to designate in your will the person(s) you want to serve as your children’s legal guardian(s) in the event of the deaths of both parents. Without such a provision, a court will make this determination, and the court will not necessarily choose the person or persons you would have wanted. There is also the possibility that the court might opt to place the children in foster care. That’s why it is of the utmost importance that you designate a guardian in your will.
Before you make that designation, here are a few things to consider:
How many children do you have? What are their ages? Do you want them to all live together? Do any of the children have special needs that will require special attention? Additionally, keep the following things in mind when selecting a potential guardian:
1) Is this person financially able to care for the children?
If someone will experience financial hardship due to raising your children, he or she may develop resentment toward the children. If the person can afford to carry out his or her responsibilities as guardian, it will be more likely that your children will be raised in a loving, caring household. And of course, as a matter of practicality you would probably want to have someone raise your children who has the means to provide them with a stable, secure environment. It might also be wise to leave money in a trust so the guardian has an ability to properly carry out their role as guardian.
2) Can this person physically and emotionally handle the children?
Young children can be overwhelming for someone who is of advanced age, not in good health, or lacks experience with children. Make sure your potential guardian is prepared for the rigors of parenthood.
3) Does this person share your values?
Most parents will want their children to have continuity in the areas of religion, morals, discipline, and character development. You may not want to select someone who does not share the values you hope to instill in your kids.
4) Does this person live far away?
If so, your children will likely be uprooted from their schools, friends, sports, and other activities. How might your children adjust to a completely different environment (large city vs. small town, etc)? Additionally, you may not want to subject them to more major upheavals as they are grieving the loss of their parents.
5) Is this person someone that a court would approve?
If someone has serious skeletons in his or her closet, such as a serious criminal record or other issues, a court might opt to appoint someone else as guardian. You will want to select someone who the court would consider fit to raise kids, otherwise your choice would defeat the purpose of designating a guardian in the first place.
Always think long and hard about whom you want to designate as a potential guardian in your estate plan. Avoid making emotional decisions or decisions based on the fear of insulting someone by not naming them as a guardian. Consider the best interests of your children at all costs, and name a guardian you can trust and rely on to raise your kids if you are ever unable to do so.
If you are ready to begin the estate planning process, including naming a guardian, please do not hesitate to contact the Vasquez de Lara Law Group today to let us help guide you every step of the way!