Deciding who will care for your children in the event that you pass away before they turn 18 can be a very difficult decision to make. No one likes to think about succumbing to an untimely death, and it is especially hard to think about leaving your minor children behind.
But as you know, accidents and illness can strike without warning—which his why choosing a guardian is an essential part of your estate plan. Having your wishes documented about who should raise your kids if something happens to you is critical to ensure they are well provided for in your absence.
As a Newport Beach guardianship lawyer, I want to offer you some common sense guidelines to help you choose a legal guardian that can care for your kids if you and your spouse pass away at the same time. Print these out, talk them over with your spouse and get something in writing (preferably as part of your will) as soon as possible:
- Do your children know this person and are they comfortable around him or her? The potential guardian may be suitable in terms of finances and experiences, but would your kids be OK living with that person?
- Is this person fit to raise a child? Sure, your kids may love this person now, and the person may seem great around kids at parties or family gatherings, but would he or she be able to handle raising them on their own?
- Would the person be able to handle the huge task of dealing with your children’s grief?
- Does your potential guardian share the same values as you? How closely aligned are they with your beliefs about things such as money, education, religion, discipline, love, etc.?
- If your desired guardian is married, would you feel comfortable with your kids living with his or her spouse if your child’s guardian should also pass away?
- Where do your kids want to go? The state of California often gives kids a say in the matter if they are old enough upon your passing. That’s why it’s a good idea to involve your kids in the conversation to ensure they know what makes a good guardian and won’t just choose someone who seems “fun” or “cool” to live with.
- Who lives close enough and is accessible to serve as your child’s short-term guardian? Choosing this person is critical in case your chosen guardian is temporarily unavailable or lives out of state at the time of your passing.
These are just a few of the questions that you must ask yourself when choosing a guardian for your children in the event that you pass away. If you’ve worked through this checklist and you are now ready to legally document your choice of guardians to ensure your kids are protected if something happens to you, be sure to give me, your Newport Beach guardianship attorney, a call at (949) 260-1400. Ask about our Family Wealth Planning Sessions and whether you qualify for a complimentary appointment with the mention of this blog.