People typically think of a Last Will and Testament as a method by which they can determine who will receive their estate assets after death. Your Will, however, also serves one other vital function – allowing you to nominate a guardian for your minor children. If, following your death, your minor children are in need of a legal guardian to care for them a court will be charged with appointing one. Your Will is the only opportunity you have to tell that court who you would choose were the decision yours to make. Before you throw out the first name that comes to your mind as your nomination for guardian, however, take the time to really think over your choice. To help you, ask yourself the following questions to consider when choosing a guardian for minor children:
- With whom do my children have an existing relationship? Unless your child is an infant when he/she loses a parent, the loss will be felt deeply. Bringing in a guardian the child does not even know will likely make the entire situation more stressful for the child.
- Who shares my basic parenting philosophies and style? Although not completely necessary, it helps to nominate someone who will parent much like you do. The older the child, the more important this becomes because it is harder for the child to adjust to a new style.
- Who lives nearby or would be willing to relocate? If the children are in school, keeping them in the same school, with the same friends, will help create stability at an extremely unstable time.
- Who is not so committed to a career that they would have time for my children? This may require some thinking ahead. Where do you see your friends/family members in five to ten years? If the answer involves the fast track to a partnership or something similar they may not be a good choice for guardian.
- Who has the patience to be a surrogate parent? Parenting is a difficult enough job without having to deal with a child’s grief and loss. As yourself who among your friends and family has the required patience.
- Who has the financial security to take on my child(ren)?
Hopefully, you plan to leave funds behind in your estate plan to help with the continued care of your children; however, you don’t want a guardian accepting the job just for the money. Your choice of guardian will ideally be financially secure himself/herself.
Only after carefully considering the answers to all these questions (and likely many more) will you be ready to sit down with your estate planning attorney and make your final decision. If you have additional questions or concerns about choosing a guardian or estate planning in general, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.