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Estate Planning

Considerations When Choosing a Guardian for Your Child



While preparing your last wishes in a Will can be difficult, thinking about who should raise your minor children if you pass away is heartbreaking—and necessary.

Children are a gift and a big responsibility for parents. Part of that responsibility is ensuring minor children are cared for should you, and their other parent, become disabled or die. Choosing a guardian for your child requires an understanding of your parenting style and the parenting style of others, among other concerns.

Your estate plan designates and defines who you choose to care for your children should you pass away. Our attorneys help families work through this difficult decision and draft documents to clarify their wishes in order to avoid unnecessary legal proceedings and expense.

When you are expecting a child, or if you already have young children, think about the following when choosing a potential guardian:

  • Parenting beliefs: Most parents are wise not to question the parenting style of others, but when choosing a guardian for your children, questions should be asked. For many parents, the habits and parenting style of a family member or close friend are already known. Given the need to ensure your children are raised as you would have done, a discussion about how your potential choice of guardian feels about your children and how they might parent them is important.
  • Capability: Is your choice of guardian capable?  While many people might appoint their own parents as guardians, age, activity level or even disability might suggest otherwise.  My parents actually asked me NOT to name them as guardians for this exact reason.  If you’re thinking about your parents then ask them.
  • Your children: Do your children have a special relationship with a particular relative or friend?  A positive existing connection can help a parenting relationship if something happened to you.
  • Geography: If you have multiple candidates for guardian, does one reside where you might like your children to grow up?   Keep in mind, a move away from a home state or area could cause significant stress to a child who has already lost their parents.

When you have candidates in mind to act as guardian for your children, your estate plan must be written to protect your choice. In New Jersey, courts give weight to guardians named by parents in their Will. Your estate plan should name a guardian in the event of your death or disablement. Property, insurance proceeds and other assets can be protected through a trust for use by your elected guardian—and provide an inheritance for your children when they are older.

Making arrangements for your minor children if you are disabled or pass away protects them and gives you peace of mind. 

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