Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just for the elderly. Adults of any age should consider making an estate plan, but it is especially important to you if you have minor children.
If you and your children’s other parent both died before they turned 18, they would need someone to look after them and assume responsibility for their upbringing. This person is a guardian, and you can identify the person whom you want to have this responsibility in your estate plan.
Why do you need to appoint a guardian?
You may think that the chances of both parents dying before the children grow up is small. Unfortunately, this type of scenario plays out more often than you might realize. For example, if you and your spouse or partner were riding in a car together and had a collision with another vehicle, you could both die.
According to Kiplinger, if you do not name a guardian for your children, the court has to do it for you and may not choose the person you would want. On the other hand, if you name a guardian in your estate plan, the court will usually approve unless there is some reason that the person you choose is grossly unfit.
What should you look for in a guardian?
While you can choose a family member to be your children’s guardian, you can also choose someone outside the family. According to U.S. News and World Report, whether the guardian and the children are blood relations may be a secondary consideration to whether the guardian shares your values and will raise the children as you would.
It may help to choose someone with whom your child is already familiar, so a close family friend may be more appropriate than a distant relative. You may want to take the prospective guardian’s age and health into consideration, especially if your children are very young and would need a guardian for many years.
Guardianship of minor children is a big responsibility that not everyone is willing or able to take on. Therefore, do not name someone as a guardian for your children in your estate plan without that person’s knowledge and consent.