By Rebecca L. Matthias, Attorney at Law
Many young parents believe the misconception that estate planning is only necessary for the elderly, not realizing the importance of setting up proper planning for their children in the unfortunate event something happens to them. As a result, the majority of parents have not named legal guardians for their minor children, and those who have named legal guardians in their estate plan have made at least one mistake in naming a guardian. If you are a parent, you need to name a legal guardian for your children, being mindful to avoid the following common mistakes.
Nominating a couple to serve without considering what happens if one dies. Often,parents name a couple to serve as guardians by simply stating, “Bob Smith and Jane Smith.” But what happens if Jane passes away? Does the couple want Bob to be nominated as the legal guardian if he were to serve alone? These are important considerations that must be part of the discussion with a qualified estate-planning attorney.
Nominating only one possible legal guardian. A parent should nominate alternates; ideally three alternates in the event that the first or second nominated guardian is unable to serve.
Considering the financial resources of possible legal guardians. Your focus when choosing a legal guardian should be on the guardian's values and priorities. It is your responsibility to provide for your children financially in the event of your death. If you currently do not have the financial means to care for your children, then consider obtaining life insurance.
Failure to provide clear instructions to the guardians. Most parents have definitive opinions about how their children should be raised, whether it relates to education, health, nutrition, or religion. It is vital to provide the potential caregivers of your children the detailed instructions they need to raise your children as well as they can. As part of our process in working with minor children, we provide an “Instructions to Guardians” document that helps parents articulate their values, priorities, and goals in the raising of their children.
We can assist you with creating an estate plan, and in particular, a parent contingency plan, that will avoid these common mistakes. Our goal is to help you have the peace of mind that your children will be well cared for in the event something happens to you.
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