As a parent of minor children, you may think that you do not own enough possessions of value to bother with an estate plan. However, an estate plan can serve several purposes beyond passing on possessions. You may find it especially valuable to use a last will and testament to select a guardian for your minor children.
What happens when parents do not choose a guardian?
In most cases, both parents do not unexpectedly die at the same time. If one parent unexpectedly dies, then the children will most likely be cared for by the other parent. However, this may not be the case if the parent refuses to accept that responsibility, if the parent is determined by a court to be unfit or if that parent also unexpectedly dies.
In situations when the other parent cannot care for the children, a court will select a guardian for minor children. When making this selection, a judge will consider the child’s best interests. If the child is at least 14 years old, the judge will also consider his or her opinion.
Parents usually know best
Although a court-appointed guardianship decision may be carefully thought out, a judge may never have the same insight you have about your child’s needs and your family’s dynamics. As a parent, you probably know which adult family members have the strongest relationships with your children. You probably know which adults have a similar parenting style as you and which adults share your child-rearing values. You probably also know how your children respond to various authority figures and who’s presence would be most comforting to your children if they cannot be with either parent.
It can be emotional to consider the possibility of dying and the impact that your death may have on your children. However, preparing for that possibility can be the best way to influence what occurs in that situation. Naming a guardian in your will can help make sure that someone you trust will be able to step in right away when needed to provide love and care for your children.