One of the hardest parts about thinking about your untimely death is thinking about who will raise your children. No one is exactly the same as us: the same parenting style, worldview, priorities, and morals. But, you must think about it. If you do not, a judge will have to make his best guess to name a guardian for you. That situation can lead to terrible consequences.
Even though no one can fully replace you, there are people in your life that can come close enough to you to raise your children and take care of their welfare, education, or medical needs. If you have minor children, you need to name a guardian to raise your children in case something happens to you and your spouse. Yes, this is not likely, but we cannot control everything in life, and the consequences of not naming a guardian are much larger than working with an estate planning attorney.
If you do not name a guardian, a judge will have to name a guardian with no input from you. A judge has nothing more than a snapshot of your family dynamic to name the guardian, and with just a snapshot, a judge can make mistakes. Anyone can try to become guardian, and family members often fight to become guardian and get access to the children and the money that comes with them. And as a worst case scenario, if no one wants to take your children, your children may go to foster care.
If you do name a guardian, the judge will almost certainly follow your wishes and name the guardian that you chose.
How to Name a Guardian
You can name either a relative or friend to become guardian. Here are a few things to think about as you name a guardian.
- How well does your children know and get along with their potential guardian?
- How does the potential guardian teach, believe, have morals, practice health care?
- How close does the potential guardian live to you? Would your child have to move?
- How old are your children and their potential guardians?
- Your parents may have the love, desire, and time, but do they have the energy and physical health?
- If an older guardian dies, a successor guardian may be necessary, and your children have to live through the double-loss of caregivers?
- A guardian that is too young may not be established, and may have to focus on graduating or advancing their career.
- Is the potential guardian emotionally ready?
- A single guardian may not appreciate the burden of raising children on their own.
- A full household may not be able to handle more children.
WARNING: You must talk to your guardian before you name them. Do not spring the surprise of guardianship upon someone who is grieving your passing. Ask permission to name them as the guardian, and name a back-up as well.
Who’s in Charge of the Money
One factor that you maybe do not need to consider is the person’s financial ability to raise your children. Your remaining property can be used to help raise your children. Think about your potential guardian’s situation and plan accordingly, but do not discount them because of their finances.
Factors to Consider:
- You may want to name a different person to control the money than the guardian. This is an extra level of protection of your children and your property.
- However, naming the same person as guardian of your money and your children can make things simpler and more efficient. Just make sure you can trust that person with both responsibilities.
- If you do name the same person, you must make sure that they can handle money and are responsible and trustworthy. you must be able to trust that they will not use your children’s inheritances for themselves.
Compromise Will Likely be Necessary
As you can already tell, this is not an easy decision. It is difficult and complicated. However, it is essential all the same. By naming a guardian, you are responsibly taken care of your children no matter what happens. You will certainly have to make compromises, as no one can perfectly replace you. Name someone who can come closest to the ideal guardian that you have in mind.
Let’s Continue this Conversation
Nothing about this decision is easy, either mentally or emotionally. However, working with an estate planning attorney can help you work through these options and understand the long-term implications. You can change your mind as time goes on and people change. Chances are, you will make a change, and that is ok. Contact The Rains Law Firm or schedule a complimentary initial meeting to begin naming a guardian for your minor children.