Many young couples with children and bills to pay may look at you askance, when asked about estate planning and say, “what estate?”
However, a critical part of having a will—one frequently overlooked—is naming a guardian. If you don’t name a guardian, it could result in issues for your children after your death. Your child might even be placed in a foster home.
For a young family, designating a guardian is another good reason to draft a will. If you and your spouse die together with no guardian specified in a will, the guardian will be chosen by the court.
In a worst-case scenario, if you have no close family or no one in your family who can take your child, the court will send them to foster care, until a permanent guardian can be named.
The judge will collect as much information as possible about your children and family circumstances to make a good decision.
However, the judge won’t have an intimate knowledge of who you know or which of your relatives would be good guardians. This could result in a choice of one of the last people you might pick to take care of your child.
Try to find common ground, by agreeing to a set of criteria you want in a guardian. This could include the following:
- The potential guardian’s willingness to be a guardian
- The potential guardian’s financial situation
- Where the child might live with that person
- The potential guardian’s values, religion, or political beliefs
- The potential guardian’s parenting skills; and
- The potential guardian’s age and health.
Next, make a decision, get the chosen guardian’s consent, write it all down, and then set out to create a will.
Ask an experienced estate planning attorney to help you do it correctly.
For a related podcast, you can listen to Janet talk about issues relating to minor children and guardianships (along with answering some listener's questions about estate planning in general) on NPR's Your Legal Rights.
Reference: Lifehacker (Oct. 27, 2020) “Why You Should Name a Guardian for Your Kids Right Away”