A well constructed estate plang will not only addresses the distribution of your assets, but can also nominate a guardian for minor children. While there are legalities to consider, it’s important to remember that you are also determining the quality of your children’s lives if you die before they reach the age of 18.
Many parents understandably have a difficult time imagining their children without them. But they need to consider many factors for guardianship, including:
Type of Guardianship
In California, there are two types of guardianships. The first is the Guardian of the Person. This is the person who would have physical custody of the minor child. The second type is the Guardian of the Estate. This is the person who would manage the property of the minor child. In some cases, they are the same person and, in other cases, they are different persons.
When dealing with minor children in connection with trust-based planning, a guardian of the estate may not be necessary as a person named as trustee of the trust could be in charge of the minor child’s assets. A key benefit of having a trustee (vs. a guardian) manage a young person’s property is that a guardianship ends upon the minor reaching the age of 18 years. Since many parents are rightfully concerned that an 18 year old may not be mature enough to manages significant amounts of property, choosing a trustee can allow for a deferred and/or more staged distribution of assets.
Choosing someone you know well that shares a similar outlook, goals, values and parenting style assures you that they are raised in the manner in which you would have raised them.
Raising children is an expensive task, and while your estate can address some of the expenses involved, it will give you peace of mind to know that a guardian has the resources to care for the children.
Losing parents is difficult enough for children, but uprooting them after the loss can compound the issue if they must change schools, move away from other family members and make new friends during the grieving process.
If religion is an important part of your life, consider the religious views and values of the guardian. If you consider attending church an important part of a child’s upbringing, consider a guardian who shares that view.
Not only should the child and guardian be compatible, but what about the other members of the guardian’s family? Are there other children involved that need to be considered?
Once you narrow your list to a few key people, talk to them about your choice and get their thoughts about being named guardian of your child. The conversations may reveal feelings that can help you make your final decision.
Make sure these decisions are shared with your estate planning attorney so that your estate plan can properly incorporate them.
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