Do you have minor children or children with special needs you care for? Do you have a plan in place in the face of a tragedy and if you’re no longer there to care for and protect them?
Taking care of your property, yourself, or your spouse or partner in the case of your passing is a big enough reason to look at creating a Will, but when there are minor children involved, a Will becomes imperative to ensure your concerns and wishes are met.
This article answers two common questions, “What is a Will and How Does a Will Protect Your Minor Children After Tragedy?”
A Will is a legal document valid at death that allows a person to designate who should receive assets and administer final affairs. Perhaps most importantly, if you are a parent of a minor child, you can designate a legal guardian if you predecease your child. Without a Will, the Probate Court gets involved and may make the decision for you.
Choosing a guardian can be a very difficult decision; so difficult that it prevents many parents from meeting with an estate planning attorney in order to create a Will. However, after some careful consideration and forethought, you can decide and be armed with a peace of mind knowing that your minor child(ren) will be cared for should the unthinkable happen.
The Tough Decision
“We know we should have a Will appointing a guardian for our children, but we just can’t decide about whom to choose.” One spouse wants his sister and one spouse wants her brother. We fear hurting family members’ feelings if we don’t choose them. “That person chose me, so I should choose that person in return.”
These are some reasons why parents of minor children fail to have a Will. As a parent to two minor daughters, I have navigated the decision with my husband, and it wasn’t easy. There are many factors to consider which should guide your decision.
Reflect and discern
Take some time to reflect on your values, beliefs, and outlook on life. What is most important to you? Do you want to nominate a guardian who lives out of state or closer to your home? Is it important your child(ren) remain in the same school and state? Do you want someone who shares the same religious or political beliefs and affiliations? Does this person have a good relationship with your child currently?
Consider the potential guardian’s personal situation
Consider the potential guardian’s own family situation, including whether the person is married or not. If you’re considering a married couple, do you want to nominate both or just one spouse? Are there other minor children in this person’s current care? How would the potential of having additional children in the household affect that person?
Also, you should always consider the person’s age, health, and capacity to care for minor children.
Have a conversation
Once you have chosen a guardian (and a successor as well), talk with that person about whether or not they are comfortable with being named as the guardian of your minor child or children if the situation ever arose. It is a major responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly by either party involved.
In summary, don’t let choosing a guardian prevent you from taking action to create a Will or proper estate planning steps today.
Remember, you can make changes to your plan at any time and you should always review your estate plan as you experience any major life changes (or life changes in your appointed successors and guardians). This plan is not carved in stone for the rest of your life. It should reflect your current desires going forward.