FACTORS FOR PARENTS OF MINOR CHILDREN TO CONSIDER IN ESTATE PLANNING
Updated: Apr 3
One major decision you should make and have reflected as part of your estate plan is who will care for your children should the unthinkable occur. The person who you designate to take care of your children is called a guardian. Below are considerations you should make when determining who you want to direct to be the guardian of your children.
Naming a guardian to care for your children in the event you die too soon may seem overwhelming. Remember that it is a plan, and it is in the best interest of your children to have a plan for them. Put the below considerations in order of priority for you and your children. You should have your first choice and a backup, should something occur in the future that prevents your first choice from serving as guardian. If you don't select a guardian, the courts will decide who will get to care for your children.
The Willingness of the Guardian to Serve
Is the prospective guardian for your children willing and able to do so? The person's willingness to serve is the most crucial factor to consider. You need to discuss this with the prospective guardian and receive a strong sense of commitment concerning his or her willingness to care for your children. Otherwise, a court battle could ensue following your death, and your children may end up with someone you did not want caring for your children. Do not shy away from the conversations you need to have. The welfare of your children could very well depend on the steps you take now. Be open and honest with the prospective guardian and other family members.
Is the potential guardian married or does the potential guardian have children of his or her own? If married, is it a healthy marriage? If the potential guardian is already a parent, how old are the children? Understanding the current status and how that status may change over time is a significant factor because it will likely impact how the guardian will raise your children.
Knowing whether the potential guardian is good at managing money, and the type of job the guardian has are also critical. You need to consider whether the prospective guardian can afford to care for your children. Much like the family status, the potential guardian's financial situation can have a significant impact on your children's future.
Generally speaking, your children will become part of the family of the guardian you select. Your children will live where the guardian lives. You should expect the guardian to make changes as necessary and for said changes to be for the betterment of the guardian's family. You should not expect the guardian to move to your neighborhood, school district, etc. Therefore, consider where the person lives now, and also whether you would be okay with your children living there.
Do you share the same religious views with the person you are considering as the guardian of your children? Do you know what that person's religious beliefs are? If not, now is a great time to find out. Religion often shapes how a person raises a child, and the religious beliefs of a child's caregivers often form the viewpoints of the child.
Whether the potential guardian is young or old can have advantages and disadvantages. If the guardian is more advanced in age, he or she may be in a better financial position and have more time to dedicate to raising your children. There is also the possibility that an older guardian may become ill or die before the children become adults.
If the potential guardian is already a parent, pay attention to the parenting skills of that person. Do you know his or her views on discipline, education, sports, and other youth activities? If not a parent already, consider the parenting skills of the potential guardian's parents, since this will significantly influence how they will act as a parent.