My husband and I had a very hard time deciding who should raise our daughter in the event we both pass away while she is still a minor. We knew choosing a guardian was the most important decision we had to make with regards to our estate plan because if we did not do it, anyone could petition the court for this job and the court has the discretion to name whomever they feel is best.
For many families the issue is not that there is no one to take care of the minor child(ren). The issue arises in how to choose the best person for the job. In our case, all of our family and extended family would step forward to care for Erin. The issue was who would raise Erin the way we would have if we were still alive. While we love our family, not all of them would be a good fit to parent Erin. We understood that the person(s) we appointed as guardian would not change their lifestyle just because they were now in charge of Erin. We were looking for guardians who, right now, would be able and willing to care for Erin. Some of the guardian characteristics we identified as being important to us were:
- Love - will the potential guardian love Erin as if she were their own child?
- Values - does the potential guardian have the same values as us?
- Religious belief - would the potential guardian raise our child in our religion?
- Age - is the potential guardian old enough (or young enough) to handle raising a child? Will they have enough time and energy?
- Location - would Erin be required to change school districts or move to a new state?
Deciding on guardians is not a static decision. I recommend reviewing this list every one to three years. The individuals you think are a good fit today may not be in the future. You may disagree with their parenting style or they might move far away. Not only will your guardians' behaviors change but what you think of as important attributes for a guardian will change over time as well.
My final recommendation, although many practitioners will disagree with me, is to talk to prospective guardians about their willingness to serve in this role for your child(ren). Recognize that it may be an uncomfortable conversation and be willing to accept the fact that not everyone can or will want to take on this responsibility.
Why Choose Morris Hall:
You have a number of options when it comes to estate planning, so why pick Morris Hall? First off, estate planning and asset protection are a very complicated endeavor and you should only trust someone who focuses exclusively on those matters. Also, MH is a proud member of The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) which provides us additional support, advanced training, tools and information that is not available to others - which means that we can better protect your assets and your loved ones. We are one of only two firms in Arizona that belong to the AAEPA and are the only firm in New Mexico that has been granted membership. If you have assets and loved ones that you want to protect, you are in good hands with MH. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!
Contributed by MH attorney Katherine A. O'Connell