Estate planning is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for parents with minor children. In addition to deciding how to distribute your assets, you must also make decisions to ensure that your children will be properly cared for. This includes making arrangements for a legal guardianship.

Naming a Guardian

You can name a guardian in your will. As long as there is no reason for a judge to think your choice is not in the best interest of the child, and as long as the guardian accepts the responsibility, your nomination will likely be successful.

Selecting a Guardian

Choosing a guardian is a major decision, and it should not be made lightly.

  • Who do you trust to raise your child in a way you would approve of? Consider whether the person has a stable life, and whether their views on parenting, religion and ethics align with yours.
  • Who is willing to be a guardian? This is a big responsibility, and not everyone is up for the task. Before naming a guardian in your will, talk to the person you want to nominate.
  • Who gets along with your child? Choosing a guardian your child already knows and loves may help make a very difficult transition easier.
  • Select one person. Although you may want to choose a married couple as joint guardians, it is generally better to nominate an individual instead of a couple. This can be especially important if the couple separates at some point.

How Will the Guardian Pay for Your Children’s Needs?

Raising a child can be expensive. When selecting a guardian, it’s also important to consider how the guardian will cover various expenses, including food, clothing, medical care and education.

Purchasing a life insurance policy is a great way to ensure that your child’s financial needs are met no matter what happens to you. However, people sometimes make mistakes when it comes to naming the beneficiary of the life insurance policy. When a minor child is involved, it is generally advisable to put assets into a trust for the minor.

Also consider what will happen when your child turns 18. Although you may want to provide some funds for education and life expenses, many 18-year-olds do not handle windfalls well. Trusts can be set up with this in mind.

Remember to Update Your Estate Plan

You may need to update your estate plan occasionally. It’s smart to review your estate plan periodically. You should also review your estate plan after major life changes – for example, if you get married, get divorced, or have another child.

Also consider how life changes might have affected the person you nominated as guardian. For example, if the person you selected as guardian has experienced major health issues, are they still up for the responsibility? In some cases, you may need to change your guardian selection.

When updating your estate plan, don’t forget to update beneficiary designations as needed.

Need help with setting up guardianship for your children? Contact Skinner Law.