People often think of estate plans as documents to protect a person’s assets. And while it is certainly true that an estate plan typically does address numerous financial details of a person’s estate, there are other elements to these plans that are even more important than the distribution of assets.
Guardianship, for instance, should be a part of every parent’s estate plan if they have minor children.
Why should parents select a guardian?
Guardianship gives someone the legal authority to make decisions for a child when a parent is unfit or unavailable. Essentially, the guardian takes on the parental role and provides guidance, support, and care for a child.
When parents do not name a guardian, then the courts will make the decision, should the need arise. Without the input from a parent, a judge who has likely never met anyone involved in the case will appoint a guardian. He or she will do so after considering several factors. Generally, though, courts typically consider family members first and those who petition the court for guardianship.
Whom should parents name as a guardian?
Rather than leave such a crucial decision up to a stranger, parents can provide valuable direction to the courts by naming a guardian themselves. In most cases, the courts will approve this party, as long as he or she is fit for the role. As such, parents should appoint someone who is:
- Capable of taking on parental duties, physically and emotionally
- Close to the children
- Willing to fill the role
Putting the pieces together
Appointing a guardian is an important piece of any parent’s estate plan. It can give parents, children, and the person or persons named as guardians some peace of mind in knowing that a contingency plan is in place, should the need ever arise.
However, it is only one piece of the estate planning puzzle. There are other documents and protections parents can have that provide comprehensive protection for them and their families, and discussing the options with an attorney can be wise.