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Who Will Take Care Of Your Children?

May 26, 2015 – No parents want to think about not being there to raise their own children. But unforeseen accidents and illnesses do happen. As a parent, you need to make sure that your children are protected and cared for the way you would want them to be. The best way to do that is to decide who will take care of your children and who will manage your finances if you aren’t around.

Without proper estate planning, a court would appoint a guardian for your minor children. It’s is important to make these essential decisions on your own and to formalize them in proper legal documents.

What is Guardianship? Guardianship is legal authority granted by a court over a child and/or the child’s property. There a two types of guardianship:

  • Guardian of the Person – Guardianship of the child which gives the guardian control over the child’s custody or placement, educations, medical care, and general well being
  • Guardian of the Estate – Guardianship of the child’s financial affairs and property – which gives control over finances including inheritances, money, real estate….

** In some cases the same person will be chosen as both guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. When considering guardians, you should consider if your potential choice is good with money and will be able to effectively manage any inheritance that’s left for your child. If you believe that the best person to raise your child is not the best person to manage your child’s money (and vice versa) then you should consider naming two different guardians.

Choosing your child’s guardian is an extremely important decision and one that should not be avoided.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a guardian for your children:

  1. Think beyond obvious choices: Even if certain family members seem like natural choices, look at all of the factors involved:
  • Location
  • Lifestyle
  • Religious beliefs
  • Moral values
  • Educational values
  • Social values
  1. Focus on love – Consider who would truly love your child if appointed as their guardian.
  2. Don’t worry about the guardian’s financial situation – You can take care of the finances with what you leave (savings accounts, life insurance….). You can even instruct your trustee to provide funds for your chosen guardian to build an addition to their home or to move to a larger child to accommodate your children.
  3. Consider how raising your children would fit into their lifestyle:
  • If they are older – do they have good health and stamina? Do they really want to be parents to a young child at their stage of life?
  • Do they have their own children? How would your children get along with theirs?
  • How close do they live to the other important people in your children’s lives?
  • If a couple divorced, or one person died, would you be comfortable with either of them acting as the sole guardian? If not, you need to specify what you would want to happen.
  1. Look for a good choice – but don’t expect a perfect choice – It is likely that no one on your list will have every criteria that you want. However, if you really consider what is the most important to you, you will likely be able to make some sensible choices.
  2. Select a temporary as well as a permanent guardian – A temporary guardian may be appointed if both parents become temporary unable to care for their children – for example, as result of an illness or car accident. Depending on your choice of permanent guardians, you may want to designate a different person to act as a temporary guardian. If your permanent guardian choice does not live close by, you may want your children to stay close by. You won’t want their lives disrupted by moving them to a new school and city to be with the permanent guardian.
  3. Consider naming a backup guardian – circumstances can change and your first choice may no longer be able to accept the responsibility.
  4. Talk with everyone involved – Discuss your decision with the prospective guardians to ensure that they feel comfortable with the responsibility. If your children are old enough, talk with them to get their input as well.
  5. Write a Child Guardian Letter – it is recommended that you write a letter explaining the choice of guardian for your minor children and attach it to your last will. There are several reasons for writing this type of letter.
  • If the issue of guardian ship goes to court, a letter from you explaining your reasons for choosing a particular person as guardian could be very persuasive.
  • If a family member or close friend was expecting to be named as guardian, it may be difficult for that person to understand why they were not chosen.
  • Those hurt feelings which can then lead to of resentment toward the person you chose as guardian.
  • This letter explaining the choice of guardian may help diffuse hurt feelings or their thoughts of a legal dispute.

Please note – writing a letter to your family or friends about why you chose a particular person to be guardian of your children is not a substitute for making a last will and testament. A letter to your family and friends regarding choice of guarding is not legally binding. Contact the Bolinger Law Firm to ensure this appointment is made through the proper legal means.