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Assigning Guardianship of Your Minor Children: What You Need to Know

Assigning Guardianship of Your Minor Children: What You Need to Know

May 14, 2020

If something happened to you tomorrow—where would that leave your minor children? That’s a heart-stopping question, and we mean for it to be. Here are a few more: Who will they live with? Is there enough money for their care and to settle matters of your estate if you become incapacitated or pass away? Do you want them placed in foster care? If you do not have a few things in place for your young children in the case of a catastrophic event, the result can be even more devastating for them. The best way to prepare for the worst-case scenario is to assign guardianship of minor children.

Talking about your own death and/or incapacitation is not a “fun” topic, but it’s necessary—especially if you have young children. Either way, you want to ensure your children aren’t caught up in a foster care situation, even for one night. And that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t have the legal documentation in place that spells out the details of your wishes.

Yes, it’s a tough topic. But, when you legally assign guardianship of minor children, you ensure they receive the best care from people you personally choose to take care of them in your place. Even if you’re divorced, don’t automatically assume that if something happens to you, your ex-spouse will be healthy and live forever. Because—what if they don’t? Guardianship must come into play to provide the best protection for your children.

Additionally, you want to appoint someone as guardian of your estate and finances to further protect the wellbeing of your children. Physical and estate guardians don’t have to be the same person. You can appoint more than one person to bear these responsibilities.

This article will explore both physical guardians and guardians of estates and/or finances to give you an idea of what you should consider for your own situation.

How to Assign a Guardian for Minor Children

A guardian is someone you choose to care for and look after the daily wellbeing of your minor children if something happens to you. These are the people who will literally shape the lives of your most precious creations and ensure they grow into healthy, happy adults. With this in mind, you must choose wisely. And, while your parents, siblings, or even a best friend may immediately come to mind—the decision depends on much more than how you feel about those people.

Considerations in choosing the right guardian:

  • Guardians must be legal adults. And, while Grandma and Grandpa might be your first choice, are they young enough to raise your children until they’re grown? 
  • It’s important to have these hard talks with people you’re considering as guardian. Are they willing to raise your children? If they already have a large family, it may be too much. But single-cousin-Susan may not relate to children at all.
  • Does this person have the same standards and morals that are important to you, and will they raise your child accordingly? Do their discipline styles align with what you want for your child?
  • Where does the potential guardian live? Will your children have to move to a new school, city, or state? Uprooting the children at an already stressful time may not be ideal, but sometimes it is necessary. 
  • It’s important for your children to know their family. Take steps to ensure the guardian you choose will make this happen, especially if the guardian lives in another city or state.
  • Financial stability. Ideally, your estate has adequate funds to provide financial support. If not, can this person afford to raise your children on their own?

Guardian of Estate

Financial stability is a key factor in ensuring your children are well taken care of if something happens to you. This is why many people also appoint someone as guardians of their estates.

Finances can sometimes be as overwhelming as raising children. So, you can appoint someone entirely different than the physical guardian of your children to handle the financial aspects of your estate. A separate guardian for the estate also creates a layer of checks-and-balances to protect that wealth over time. You can choose a relative, friend, or even an attorney or financial professional. Regardless of your choice, the guardian of your estate can ensure that money for the child isn’t squandered by others or the by the child as they become an adult. 

As you navigate the complexities of a financial guardian, make sure you seek proper legal advice. Whether your estate is large or small, there are different strategies (such as a trust) you can establish to protect your heard-earned wealth and preserve as much as you can for your children long after you’re gone.

What Should You Do Now?

If you don’t appoint a guardian and something happens to you, the state can and will take custody of your children and assign a guardian for them. This may be someone that you would have never picked to be your child’s guardian—someone you don’t even know. To avoid this, it is imperative to seek appropriate professional advice to legally assign guardianship of your children before the need arises. As a living parent, you do everything in your power to ensure they are healthy, happy, and safe. You should take the same steps to ensure that happens if you’re no longer able to provide that care yourself.