The “Talk” about Guardianship

Planning for minors“Planning for death is a morbid thing to do,” admits Kelli Gardner, an estate attorney in Portsmouth. “People don’t like to deal with unpleasant things.” But if dying isn’t bad enough, parents of young children must face the choice of deciding who will replace them and take over the day-to-day care of their children if the unlikely occurs. Choosing a guardian is one of the toughest estate planning choices people have to make. “It’s the reason why many don’t have an estate,” says Michelle Arruda, an estate lawyer in Concord. For some “it’s just not an obvious choice [and others] just can’t get it done.”

New Hampshire Magazine’s May 2015 issue contains an article titled “Don't put off writing down your last words.” The article admits that the likelihood of two people who have at least one child under the age of 18 dying simultaneously is quite low. Even so, for many young parents death seems like a long ways away. Parents of all ages should have their affairs in order—including guardianship.

If you just can’t decide on a guardian, you should still move ahead with your estate planning. It is better to have this issue undecided than to die without a will. That said, the article suggests that it’s a good idea to nominate two people. That way you have one to be the guardian of the children and a second to be a trustee of the funds dedicated to their care. 

Some parents feel that they must choose family members, but in many instances a close friend will work better than family. Think about close friends with children at about the same age as yours. Here are a few other things to ponder about selecting a guardian:

Does your guardian have a similar parenting philosophy, religious, and personal values?

Do they live close to you?

Do they have children, and how will your child(ren) fit in that situation?

Is the household stable?

Is age of the guardian an issue?

The article also advises not to exclude someone because they aren’t well off. You can create a trust that is funded through assets or life insurance to ensure the day-to-day care, health care needs, and the college expenses of your children. Talk to a qualified estate planning attorney about setting up this type of trust and reviewing your estate plan.

When you have decided on a guardian, review your plans and expectations with them (including the trust created by the attorney) and give them some time to think about assuming this role.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.  Why not call us for a complimentary consultation at 757-259-0707.  

Reference: New Hampshire Magazine (May 2015)“Don't put off writing down your last words”

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Update to our Process

The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has taken our entire country by surprise. We understand how difficult this time is for America’s businesses and families.  However, we believe it is vitally important that we make every effort possible to continue to offer solutions that avoid disrupting our important partnership with you, your family and friends.  As you know, estate planning is not something that should wait for a more convenient time, therefore the opportunity to address your important goals both during and after this crisis should not wait.  To that end, we have added the option of a ‘virtual consultation’ to our office process.  You will now have a choice of either meeting with us in our office or in the comfort of your own home.