Naming a guardian for a young child in a will can be one of the most important things a parent does. It can also be one of the hardest—in fact, many people don't make a will because they can't answer the question.
The Wall Street Journal typically focuses their editorial slant on financial assets, but an article last week actually touches on a much more important aspect of estate planning: Who will take care of your child(ren) if you die? It’s a tough question to face, but if ignored, it leaves the fate of an orphaned child entirely up to someone who usually is a stranger – a judge. I am astounished by how many parents fail to name a guardian for their minor children; in fact, the only workshop I even held that no one showed up for was on this very topic.
If you are the parent – or grandparent – of a minor child, here are some tips that might get you (or your adult child) motivated to complete proper planning:
Choose a guardian for now. Remember, you can change your mind and modify your will in the future.
Think outside the box. The guardian you name does not have to be a blood relative.
Remember that nobody’s perfect. You probably are not a “perfect” (i.e., flawless) choice to parent your own children – neither is anyone else.
Consider a mixed approach. You may want to name a guardian for your children, someone who is great with the kids; and a guardian for the estate to handle the finances.
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Reference: The Wall Street Journal (December 12, 2011), “The Hard Question.”