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Estate planning is especially important for families with minor or incapacitated children.
When we prepare presentations for workshops in estate planning, we always tell our participants with minor children that the most important document in their plan is the Appointment of Guardian for Minor Children. Choosing who will take care of your children is very emotional and sometimes difficult decision, but legally documenting your decisions is critical to a successful estate plan. If you have kids, you need to plan to care for your children and your family.
Ideas for you when naming guardians for your children:
Idea 1: Consider people outside the obvious choices. Consider the ages of your children as well as the ages of the guardians.
Idea 2: Friends can make excellent guardians. Consider families your family is close to, friends you know from church, even teachers or child care providers with whom you and your children have a special relationship.
Idea 3: Don’t stress about finances or the size of someone’s house. Don’t eliminate anyone from consideration because you don’t think they have the financial means to take care of your children. You can take care of the finances with what you leave. (That’s what term life insurance is for!)
Idea. 4: Focus on who would love your children – through the teenage years. Consider whether each couple or person on your list would truly love your children if appointed their guardian.
Idea 5: Consider values and philosophies such as
Idea 6: Personality counts
Idea 7: Consider practical factors. Their age and possible changes in their lives and ask:
Idea 8: Look for a good – but not a perfect – choice. No one on your list will seem perfect. But if you consider what matters to you most, you will probably be able to make some reasonable choices. Always, trust your instincts, if one couple or person seems to meet all of your criteria, but doesn’t feel right, don’t choose them.
Idea 9: Write down your reasons. If you’ve chosen friends over relatives, or a more distant relative over a closer one, be sure to explain your reasoning in writing.
Idea 10: Talk with everyone involved. If your children are old enough, talk with them to get their input as well. And be sure to consult with the people you’d like to choose, to ensure they’re willing to be chosen and would feel comfortable acting as guardians.
Once you’ve made your choice, there are steps you can take to make sure the potential guardians you’ve chosen will have guidance and support they need. Here are a few ideas:
Write a letter and create a set of guidelines to convey information about your children, your parenting values and your hopes and dreams for your children. (We can assist you in creating a “Guidelines for Guardians” handout.)
Set up a trust that will hold the assets you pass to your children, and instruct the trustee to provide necessary financial assistance to the guardians or specific instructions about special things you’d like the trust funds used for (for example, annual trips for your children to visit close friends and relatives, a particular sport or summer camp, putting in a swimming pool at the guardians’ house).