No one likes to think about his or her own death. The notion is even harder to swallow when you have small children. The idea of not being around to raise your offspring and watch them grow is enough to make many people put off necessary estate planning.
Unfortunately, avoiding the issue can only make things worse. As painful as it may be, deciding who will care for your children if you are no longer around is one of the most important things that you can do to ensure their future wellbeing. Failing to designate a caretaker for your children can leave their fates in the hands of a judge who may grant guardianship to someone you never would have chosen. That is why naming a guardian for minors is so critically important.
What Happens If You Do Not Designate a Guardian
When people pass on, the courts look to their wills and other estate planning documents to determine how to handle their estates. Many people mistakenly think that wills are only useful for distributing property and money.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, one of the most important things you can do in your will is name a guardian for your minor children in the event you pass on and there is not another parent who is available or capable of caring for them.
When you die, your estate will go through probate, where a judge will determine who is to have guardianship of your children. If you have designated a guardian in your will, the court will almost always respect your choice, unless there is a compelling reason not to. If, however, your will is silent as to who should serve as guardian and there is no parent available to do so, the judge handling your estate will be forced to choose someone to fill the role. He or she will have to make the decision without the benefit of having any information about your wishes.
The designated guardian will be whomever the judge deems most appropriate. Unfortunately, that person is n’t necessarily going to be who you would have thought was most appropriate. The default choice is usually to grant guardianship to a living parent, so your will is also your chance to express any concerns you may have or reasons why you might not want that to happen.
By naming a guardian for minors while you are alive, you can ensure that your children will be well cared for by someone who is not only competent, but who shares your values. Designating a guardian in advance also affords you the opportunity to prepare the potential guardian for the role, and make sure that he or she is up to the task and has the financial means to do the job. It also gives you the chance to have a discussion about what your wishes and goals are for your children.
Nothing is more critical to your minor children’s well-being than having a trustworthy guardian. Guardianship is a big decision and a great responsibility, so it is not something you should take lightly or leave up to chance. As stressful as it may be to think about, naming a guardian now will give you peace of mind down the road, knowing that your children will be taken care of if something terrible happens.
Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney Today
The Ledbetter Law Firm, APC is dedicated to helping individuals and families plan for their futures through all aspects of estate planning. Contact The Ledbetter Law Firm, APC to discuss your estate planning needs and any questions you might have about naming a guardian for minors.