If you have minor children, consideration must be made for their care in any prudent estate plan. If you are survived by the child’s other parent, this parent will normally take custody upon your death. If they have predeceased you, or extenuating circumstances exist, another guardian should be listed in their place.
When you are selecting an appropriate guardian, your personal preferences are important. From your standpoint, you may ask if the guardian is going to raise your child with values that will closely parallel your own. If you are laissez faire in your religious practice, it may be a shock for the children to be thrust into a substantially more devout home. This will be compounded by the fact they have recently lost a parent. Value judgments about the educational and extra-curricular activities should also mirror your own.
Financially, can the guardian afford to care for your children? Will there be enough room in the new home for the children to have an appropriate amount of space to call their own? If your prospective guardian has children of their own, do the children get along well enough to live in the same home?
If you are satisfied with the types of answers you have found, it is time for the most important question to be asked. You need to let your potential guardian and any alternates you may choose know of your wishes. They are under no legal obligation to accept this tremendous responsibility and may decline the appointment. You need to know well in advance so alternate plans may be fashioned. Once suitable guardians are determined, consult your estate planner to make sure your plans are properly stated.
Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.