One of the most common explanations people offer for why they have yet to create an estate plan is that they don’t have enough assets to warrant creating one. If you are the parent of minor children, however, you have the most valuable assets of all to protect. Although many people do not realize it, a Last Will and Testament allows you to do just that – protect your children – by affording you the opportunity to nominate a Guardian for your children in the event you are no longer here to care for them yourself someday. Given the important role a Guardian will play in the lives of your children, the utmost care should be taken when deciding who to nominate. Knowing what factors to consider when nominating a guardian for minor children is essential to making the right choice.
Most people think of a Will as nothing more than a document that directs the distribution of estate assets after the death of the Testator. Your Will does do that; however, it also serves one more vital role – allow you the only opportunity you will have to tell a judge who you would choose to be the Guardian for your minor children if you were there to make the decision. Ultimately, a judge will have to decide who to appoint as your children’s Guardian if one is needed; however, your nomination will carry significant weight with a judge for obvious reasons. When considering a potential Guardian, ask yourself the following questions in order to make the best choice for your children:
- Does the individual have the time and energy to serve as Guardian? Consider his/her age, work commitments, physical shape, and any known medical conditions.
- Do your children already have an established relationship with the individual? Having to go live with someone after losing a parent will be hard enough. Going to live with a complete stranger will be even harder.
- Does the individual share your parenting philosophies? While it is not critical that your views on parenting are exactly the same, they should be similar so the children don’t have to completely re-learn the rules and expectations.
- Does the individual share your religious beliefs? This isn’t critical to everyone; however, if religion is important to you it should be taken into account.
- Does the individual have the financial means to be Guardian? Raising children costs a considerable amount of money. Your guardian should either have the financial means already or you should make provisions elsewhere in your estate plan.
- Does the individual live close or would he/she be willing to relocate? The fewer changes to your children’s daily routines during this difficult time the better. Changing schools, friends, churches etc. can be traumatic even with a parent. Having to do so right after losing a parent could be unbearable.
- Is the individual’s life likely to change considerably in the future? For example, is it likely he/she will get married, relocate for a career, or have children? All of these changes will impact your children so should be considered.
If you have additional questions or concerns about choosing the right Guardian for your minor children, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.