Naming a Legal Guardian in Your Will


Whether you are planning your first romantic vacation with the spouse or even a date night without the kids, I’m sure you have prepared all the arrangements and instructions for childcare. But, like many others, you may have neglected setting a long-term plan for your children’s care in the event of an unforeseen tragedy.  Naming a legal guardian is a step no one should skip and is the most important part of your Will.

We can all be guilty of procrastinating when it comes to getting a legal Will. But once you have children, picking the appropriate guardian for your kids in the event of your death is a must. Naming  legal guardians is generally done through a Will. For those that already have a Will but may have skipped this step, it is usually easy to add this important information by way of a codicil. If you don’t have a Will at all, it’s probably not a bad idea to look into getting one and adding specific provisions for your child’s long-term care.

A Judge will decide the guardianship of your children if you do not specify someone for them. This can be a legal nightmare, leaving family members fighting and sometimes even worse with kids in temporary placement situations while guardianship is decided. A judge does not know your children or your candidates, but they will make this decision for you. If you have a will, you can specify who that guardian is and avoid making a tragic situation worse. No one likes to think of these situations, but worrying about and planning for your children’s’ future is part of being a parent.

Here are some quick tips for picking your legal guardian:

1) Do it. Don’t leave it up to fate or a judge. Even if you don’t know who the perfect person would be, it’s better to have someone listed than no one at all.

2) Think about proximity- does the person you are appointing as a guardian live close enough to you to arrive and take custody of the children in a reasonable amount of time? If not, consider adding a local person who can take temporary custody of the children until your point person arrives. The point is to avoid the Police Department or State Division of Children (DYFS or DCPP) from getting involved.

2) Age of the person you are appointing- You can name grandparents, and many people do, but consider their age. You may want to add a provision that changes with time, or consider updating your will/guardianship papers to change someone you may have added many years ago who may no longer be a fit choice.

3) Consider whether you want the guardian of your children to be the same person as the guardian of the estate.  Many people choose to separate the two jobs.

So, while this is definitely a hard thought to swallow and a difficult decision to make, you will rest easier knowing it is done. Don’t procrastinate.

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