Would you want your children left with a relative who doesn’t want them or raised by a relative who you would never have chosen? Your children could face court battles and may even be placed in the foster care system unless you name a legal guardian in your legal will. Bottom line is that a judge, a complete stranger, will make this decision for you and it may not be the best decision for your child’s future.
Numerous North American studies have shown that between 50% and as high 75% of parents with minor children have no legal will and have not named a legal guardian to assume the care of their children in the event that both parents die.
The main reason most parents cite for not naming a guardian is that they can’t agree on who to pick. Spouses tend to advocate for a family member from their own side of the family and so, in order to keep the peace, they tend to put off the decision. This is too important to relegate to the back burner while hoping that nothing will happen to you.
Here are some tips that can help make your decision easier. Put together a list of names of family members and friends who you would trust with raising your children with love and the values that you cherish. Discuss each name with your spouse. Consider their ages, their health, their location and their relationship with your children. Avoid criticizing each other’s choices as this will only lead to hard feelings. Instead list only the benefits each person on your list provides and try to winnow it down from there.
What’s important is to pick someone today, even as a temporary guardian. You can always change your guardian at any time. As children get older their relationships with relatives change too. They may become closer to one relative over another. Once your children are about 10 years old consider their opinions as well.
It is always better to choose one person as a guardian as opposed to a couple. You don’t want your children to endure another court battle over who is to raise them in case the couple separates or one of them passes away. You can name a second person to be your backup guardian in this case. The next step is to talk to the guardian you have chosen to let them know of your decision.
It is also a good plan to choose someone other than your children’s guardian to manage your children’s inheritance. This will provide further peace of mind in case the guardian you choose isn’t a good manager of money.
Writing a will and naming a guardian and a trustee for your children does not cost a lot of money. You can secure the future for your children for as little as $200 for a simple will. If you have a large estate, children from different relationships and relatives who you know will contest your will then you should contact a professional estate planner.