When you have children, the estate planning process becomes especially important. Not only is it necessary to ensure your wishes are carried out and your family is financially provided for if you pass, but it is also absolutely vital for the purpose of naming a guardian who will raise your children if you and their other parent are ever killed or unable to raise them.
The fact is, accidents happen all the time, and the potential for a life-changing event that would leave your minor children without parents to raise them and care for them is high. If such a worst-case scenario were to occur, wouldn’t you rather make the determination of who should raise your children instead of leaving it up to a court and judge who does not really know your kids or what you would have wanted?
However, the seriousness and gravity of naming a guardian can sometimes leave parents overwhelmed. Additionally, there are some who do not take the choice seriously enough. Below we have outlined five common mistakes that parents need to avoid when naming a potential guardian for their children.
1) Choosing someone because you are expected to
People often assume that they need to choose obvious people as guardians—perhaps their parents or their siblings. However, these people may not always be the best choice to raise your children. Never name a guardian to appease someone or avoid hurting their feelings. Never name someone as guardian because you think you are expected to. Your children’s futures are at stake, and quite simply, you need to make the BEST choice, not the expected choice.
2) Making an emotional decision
Selecting a guardian should be a logical process, removed of emotion. For example, perhaps you do not personally get along with your spouse’s sibling, but logically you know that individual would be the best person to raise your kids if you were unable to. Try to remove emotion from the equation and think logically about the best interests of your children.
3) Selecting someone a court would not allow
There are certain occasions in which a court may not honor your choice of guardian, such as if the person you named has a drug or alcohol issue or a significant criminal history. Selecting someone a court would likely question or disallow will complicate the process, make things much harder on your children, and in effect result in the same situation as if you had not named a guardian at all.
4) Naming someone without resources
You may have a guardian in mind whom you know would love and care for your kids and raise them with the values you envision, but if they do not have the financial resources to care and provide for them, they probably should not be your choice. This is especially important if you have more than one child and you want to ensure that your kids stay together. Raising a child is a serious financial burden, and your guardian should be able to shoulder such a burden.
5) Naming someone who won’t be around
Imagine if you named someone as a guardian for your minor children who are of significantly advanced age or in poor health. Your kids are faced with the trauma of losing their parents and go to live with this guardian. Then, within several years, your kids are faced with the added trauma of losing that guardian. It is important to name someone as guardian whom you expect to be around for a significant amount of time. No one can predict the future, but naming an elderly parent as guardian may not be a better choice than naming a middle-aged sibling if all other factors are equal.
The importance of naming a legal guardian who will raise your children if you and your spouse are killed or incapacitated cannot be overstated. Nothing less than your children’s future and wellbeing are at stake. Please take immediate action to begin the estate planning process, including naming a guardian. The Matus Law Group can help! Give us a call today to get started.