As a parent, the last thing you want to think about is what your minor children will do without you in the event of your death. While most people expect their children to outlive them, the thought of dying when the kids are still dependent on you can be heartbreaking and overwhelming. It is important, however, to give this some thought, however unlikely it may be that you do not survive to see them grow into adulthood. One of the ways you can continue to care for your children after your death is by appointing a guardian to finish raising them. Here are some common pitfalls in the selection process, as well as ways you can avoid them.
Not Making Any Decision at All
You might assume that if you were to die, your spouse or the children's other parent would care for them. Most of the time, this is the case. In some instances, though, both parents die at the same time, or one dies shortly after the other. There is also the consideration that the other parent might be unable to provide care for some reason. You have to prepare for this possibility by choosing someone other than your spouse or ex as a second choice. If you were not to do so, it's possible that a judge will decide on a guardian you would not have chosen yourself and who might not be a good fit for your children.
Assuming That Your Intended Guardian Will Accept the Responsibility
Never assume. If you have chosen someone to raise your children in the event of your death, make sure that he or she knows about your decision. No one, no matter how close to you and your children, wants to be informed by someone else that they have been chosen to care for your kids. This is a discussion that you should have with your friend or loved one before writing up the will and establishing a legal guardian.
Choosing Solely Based on Parenting Style
It is important to choose an intended guardian based on how they relate to your children. It's best if they have a similar parenting style and a set of shared values. This is not the only consideration, however. Most of the time, the person who is raising your child will also be handling his or her finances until the age of majority is reached. Think critically about who you have chosen; if they are not able to handle their own finances, it might not be wise to entrust them with the handling of the money you leave your child. It might be wise to establish a guardian of the estate who will handle the money while the guardian raises your children.
Not Telling People Where to Find the Will
Having a will is important, but hiding it away somewhere that no one will find it after your death all but ensures that your wishes will not be followed. If you choose, you can send a copy of the will to your intended executor. Your estate-planning attorney should keep a copy, too. If you do not want to send along a copy to anyone in your family or in your group of friends, at least tell them who your attorney is and where they can find a copy in your own home or safe box.
Estate planning can be overwhelming, but with the the help of an estate-planning attorney, the process can be streamlined and less stressful. If you have questions about how best to allocate your estate or how to choose a guardian for your children, this type of lawyer can help you make uncomfortable decisions before they become necessary and tell you more about this topic.