If you have minor children, perhaps the most important element of your estate plan doesn’t involve your assets. Rather, it involves naming your children’s guardian as well as a back-up guardian.
Questions to consider
When evaluating potential guardians, ask these questions:
- Do they want to serve as guardians?
- Does your estate plan provide sufficient resources so that caring for your children won’t cause an economic hardship?
- Does the guardian share your values and parenting philosophy?
- If they’re married, is the marriage stable?
- If they have children, do your children get along with them?
- How old are they in relation to the children? A grandparent may not be the best choice to care for an infant or toddler, for example.
If you prefer, you can name separate guardians for your child and his or her assets.
Keep in mind that a court’s obligation is to do what’s in the best interest of your children. The court isn’t bound by your guardian appointment but will generally honor your choice unless there’s a compelling reason not to accept your guardian of choice.
Appoint a backup guardian
Choosing a backup guardian is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Why? If your first choice dies or is unable or unwilling to serve for some other reason, a court will appoint a guardian. In addition to naming a backup guardian, your estate plan should list anyone you wish to prevent from raising your children.
Ensuring a good fit
Taking the time to name a guardian or guardians now will give you the peace of mind that your children will be cared for as you wish if you die while they’re still minors. Should you have questions about this process, contact me at SDitman@berdonllp.com or your Berdon advisor.
Scott T. Ditman, a tax partner and Chair, Personal Wealth Services at Berdon LLP, advises high net worth individuals and family/owner-managed business clients on building, preserving, and transferring wealth, estate and income tax issues, and succession and financial planning.