Unfortunately, it occasionally happens that both parents of a minor child die in a common event or accident. If both parents die without an estate plan, a probate judge will have to appoint a guardian. A guardian is responsible for taking care of their “ward” until the child turns 18. This includes such things as housing, food, medical bills, clothing, education, and other incidental expenses. Having the Probate Court choose a guardian for your children may not always result in a guardian that you would have selected.
If the parents have a will or trust designating a legal guardian for their children, the children will be taken care of. A will or a trust allows you to have a say in who takes care of your child upon your death. You are in the best position to know who that individual is. Who is best able to provide a stable and nurturing home for your child – your brother, sister, grandparent, a close friend?
Factors you should consider are:
1. The age of the proposed guardian. Is the proposed guardian young enough to be able to care for the children until they reach adulthood?
2. Ages of your children. Any special needs?
3. Family structure of the proposed guardian. Is the guardian married, single, already have 6 children to raise?
4. Health issues, financial situation, religious views, living arrangements of the proposed guardian. For example would the guardian be able to raise your children in his or her existing home or would you want to provide that they could live in the family home? Does the proposed guardian have the same religious and other philosophical views as you? Does the guardian have any health issues that would have an impact on his or her ability to take care of your children?
5. Willingness to serve. Consult with the proposed guardian to be sure they are willing and comfortable with taking on the responsibility of guardian.
Nominating a guardian for your children is very important but even more so if you are selecting a non family member as a guardian. If the guardian has to be appointed by the Court, family members are usually given priority over non family members. At Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation we can assist you with the appropriate estate planning documents to nominate guardians for your minor children should something happen to you. This is best accomplished with a revocable living trust which will include nomination of guardians for your children as well as pour-over wills, durable powers of attorney for finances, health care directives, and other accompanying documents. Call us or e mail us for a complimentary consultation to discuss guardians and any other estate planning issues.