Appointing a Legal Guardian in Your Last Will & Testament

As important as it is to think about your family’s financial future in your estate plan, if you have minor children, it is just as important to consider who will care for your children if both parents should pass away before your minor children become adults.

A guardian is a person who has legal responsibility to care for minor child in lieu of the child’s parents. The person you appoint as the guardian of your children will parent your children and make decisions about their health, education, and upbringing.

If you pass away without a will and fail to designate a guardian, the Court will decide who takes care of your children. The decision may be less than ideal, as a judge does not know your family situation or your children. While close family or friends can petition to be guardian, disagreements among family can result in more than one person fighting for guardianship.

When you designate a guardian in your will, however, in most cases, the Court will honor that selection. A guardian need not be a blood relative but should be any adult that you consider to be a trustworthy and loving individual that would care for your children as you would. There are many things to consider when selecting a guardian, including the following:

   – Is this person responsible and up to the challenge of raising my children? Would this person be able to meet my children’s needs?

   – Does this person associate with safe individuals that I would feel comfortable being around my children?

   – Does this person have similar parenting style, values, and religious beliefs as me?

   – How well do my children know this person? Would my children feel comfortable with this person and this person’s family?

   – Where does this person live? Would my children be uprooted and moved away from their friends and family members if they went to live with this person?

   – How old is this person? Does the person have any medical conditions that would preclude them from being an effective guardian?

   – How many more years will my children be minors?

   – If I cannot leave adequate financial assets for the care of my children, does this person have financial resources to meet my children’s needs?

It is important for parents, whether they are married or unmarried, to discuss who they designate as the guardian for their children. If both parents were to pass away at the same time, conflict among family can be avoided if the parents designated the same guardian in their will.

Finally, always ensure you have a conversation with the person you have selected as guardian and confirm that he or she is willing and able to serve, should it ever be necessary. It is also wise to consider appointing an alternate guardian.

This blog post is intended only to be informative and is not a substitute for comprehensive legal advice. For legal advice regarding your estate planning needs, please call our office at (319) 260-2096 or e-mail stephanie@sailerlaw.com

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