Choosing a guardian
Concern for young children is one of the main reasons people create an estate plan in the first place. It’s about making sure they have someone who can take care of them in the unlikely but highly impactful event that both parents are no longer here.
Designating a guardian yourself means you can choose someone you know and trust, rather than leaving it to a judge to guess. It also means that you can make specific arrangements to guarantee their financial safety, and directly influence how you would like them to be raised.
What are my options?
Designate a guardian
When you choose a guardian, you’re designating that person as the potential substitute parent for your children until they become adults.
You may appoint anyone you want, as long as they’re 18 years-old or older. The decision is therefore solely yours, and rests entirely on the criteria you deem important for someone to raise your children if you no longer can.
Designating a financial guardian
You may choose to appoint a separate guardian to manage the finances of your children until they reach adulthood.
This means that one guardian would be in charge of the day-to-day, while another will handle all the financial decisions related to the funds and assets you will leave them.
This is helpful in situations where you’d like to create more checks and balances, and want a separate person to review the spending and investments made in your child’s name.
Designate a different guardian for different children
If you have two children or more, you may designate different guardians for each one of them. This is common in situations where the children are from different unions and may therefore have different family ties.
Designate backup guardians
There’s always a chance that your primary choice may not be able or willing to take on this responsibility when the time comes. This is why it’s important to name one or more backup guardians, just in case.
Leave a letter of instruction
Consider leaving a letter of instruction to the guardian. In it, you can tell them more about your children’s personalities and aspirations, but also share with them the hopes and expectations you have for their upbringing.
How does it work?
Technically, you can designate a guardian by mentioning them in your will, but you can also do it via a separate guardianship form. You should avoid using both, as it can be source of ambiguity.
After you pass away, a judge will first review your choice before confirming it. Their primary concern and responsibility is and will always be the well-being of your children.
Note that in a situation of divorce, a judge will tend to favor a surviving parent over the person you nominate, unless they deem it to not be in your child’s best interest.