Many people choose to write a will, obtain life insurance, or start estate planning when they become parents to ensure their children will be cared for after their death. In addition to these steps some may also want to consider choosing a guardian should both parents die or become incapicated while their children are still minors.
If you choose to do this, there are two types of guardians you will need to decide upon—a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate.
It’s important to note that the guardian of the person and estate do not have to be the same person. You can name a different person (or a couple) to each role, or have them both be filled by one person. In some cases, assigning two different people to the roles could be preferable. Perhaps you have one sibling who is fiscally responsible, but would not be a good caregiver, and another is nurturing and capable, but not great with money. In this case, it would be the responsible choice to split the roles.
Additionally, the guardian of the estate doesn’t have to be someone you know. If you choose, you can appoint an attorney, accountant, or other professional to carry out this task.
It may be hard to think about a world in which your children are left without you, but accidents and misfortunes can happen to anyone and you should be prepared. If you don’t preselect a guardian then the courts will decide for you and though they will often choose a family member, you have no control over who your child lives with or how they are raised. The courts don’t know anything about your wishes for your children or your parenting style.
Choosing a guardian is no doubt a huge decision for your family, but the alternative of not choosing and letting the courts decide is far worse. Whomever you pick will be a better choice for you child than having a stranger decide. Here are some things to consider when choosing:
When you and your spouse decide upon someone, you should contact your attorney and have them draft a document stipulating your choices for guardianship. If you already have an estate plan or trust in place, the guardianship can be included as an addendum.
Remember, whomever you end up choosing will be better than having the courts do it for you. Furthermore, you can feel secure knowing that your child will be cared for and raised according to your wishes.