Choosing a Guardian for Your Minor Children
One aspect of estate planning that can be especially difficult is the process of selecting and naming a guardian for your children. Choosing someone you trust to take care of your children is a very challenging decision, particularly if a tragedy occurs in which both you and the other parent pass away before your child becomes a legal adult.
It is important to give thoughtful consideration to the task of appointing a guardian because if one is not appointed and documented in a parent’s will, it is up to the court to make the decision of who will raise the children. In this case, the decision is made by the court without knowing or taking into consideration your preferences as a parent. Keep in mind: like all aspects of estate planning, it’s imperative to have everything documented in writing.
When selecting the person who will act as a guardian for your minor children, be aware that this individual does not necessarily have to be your family relative. Other important factors to take into consideration include:
- A parenting style that is similar to your own
- Your children’s comfort level with the individual and vice versa
- The person’s mental and physical capacity for raising children
You may also want to consider location as a factor as you may not wish for your children to be uprooted from their home and familiar surroundings. In addition to naming a guardian, you may also want to name an alternative if the first person is unable to take on the duties required at the time of your passing.
A guardian should not face a financial burden if asked to raise your children nor should his or her financial situation be a deciding factor in the selection process. As the parent, you will have to provide adequate funds (from life insurance and/or your assets) to provide for your children under the care of the selected guardian.
Keep in mind that the person named as your children’s guardian may not be the same person that you appoint as your power of attorney, who will handle your finances. Keeping your finances and your children’s care separate can make the situation less complicated for everyone involved.
Another option is to set up a trust for your children which will allow you to choose how much and when money is given to them. You may also provide specific directives should your children need to access funds before they reach adulthood.
It is important to discuss all of these different scenarios with a trusted estate planning attorney. Be sure to take time to think about each of these significant decisions and know that if your situation changes, you may contact your legal counsel to amend your estate plan and have your documents updated at any time.
It is a difficult process to plan for the worst case scenario but by carefully making these decisions today, you can benefit and protect your children’s future.
To discuss your specific needs and to find out how our guardianship attorneys in Pittsburgh can help you, please call us at Fingeret Law at 412.281.8222 or contact us online.