The thought of assigning a guardian to minor children is almost too much to bear for parents. Facing morality is not easy for most people. However, it could be the greatest gift you can give to your family before a life changing event occurs. The guardian designation can be easily included in your estate planning documents. Choosing a guardian over the person and property of your children is as important, if not more important, than providing for your material and financial possessions and can avoid family squabbles leading to family breakups. Here are some tips to make the best choice for you and your family:
Make a list of all the people you would trust to raise your child. Close family members will probably top your list but do not be afraid to consider friends, especially if your children do not have a close relationship with family members.
Focus on what kind of life your children will have rather than the current finances of the potential guardian. Your estate will provide financially for the care of the children. Will the guardians love your child as their own? Will the children have to change schools? Do they have the same values or philosophies as you with respect to religion, morals, social values, child rearing and education, just to name a few.
As the list of individuals or couples narrows, consider personality traits. Compare them with your own. Are they loving? Is their household run similarly to yours? Are they good role models? Drastic changes to a child’s environment can be emotionally damaging and hamper their development and potential. Also, what is the age of the guardian? Younger caretakers/guardians may not be mature enough to handle the responsibilities of taking care of a child and older caretakers/guardians do not always have the energy to run around with a toddler or even have the desire to start over.
Choosing a guardian is not an easy task and finding the perfect one is even harder. You and your spouse will need to agree on one individual or couple. If children are old enough, ask for their input. Just because a guardian looks great on paper does not mean they are “right” for your family. Listen to your instincts and, of course ask the potential guardian if they would be comfortable acting as guardian. Once they agree, schedule an appointment with an estate planning attorney to document the guardian designee.
Ronald A. Luzim understands that the needs of his clients vary and offers personal service for each case. He is a former estate and tax attorney with the IRS has been practicing law since 1974 and specializes not only in estate planning dependency but real estate, family law, real property, asset protection and bankruptcy. Please contact his Coral Springs office at 954-755-1500 for assistance in protecting yourself, family and property.