As a parent with young children, you’ve put a lot of thought into the best way to raise your kids, including things such as the school they attend and the beliefs and values they are taught. But have you considered what would happen if you (and your spouse, if you are married) pass away suddenly? You can help ensure the best care for your children with some advance estate planning.
With a will, there’s a way
The biggest step you can take to make sure your intentions are known and followed is to name a guardian in your will. If you haven’t named a specific guardian in your will already, you can add a clause or, if necessary, draft a new will to do this.
Make sure to list the names and birthdates for each of your children. You may also want to include a provision for any future children you may have if you pass away before you are able to amend your will in the future. Your attorney can make sure the required language is used for this.
If you don’t name a guardian for minor children in your will, the courts will decide who their guardian will be. The court could choose a family member over a friend or vice versa, and this might lead to legal disputes with your kids caught in limbo.
Factors that can influence your choice
When it comes to naming a guardian, there might not be one clear “right” or “wrong” choice. However, here are some factors to consider.
Location. It’s often best to name a guardian who lives close to your current location so that your kids won’t need to be uprooted to live with someone located far away.
Age. A guardian’s age is often overlooked, but this is an important factor to keep in mind. Your parents or others who helped raise you may now be too old to raise young children. Older adults may also experience more health issues, and this could adversely affect the family dynamic.
Environment. Ask yourself if the guardian’s views on child raising align with yours. Aspects such as education, religion, politics, and other lifestyle choices are important to consider.
Living circumstances. Although this can change over time, you can take current circumstances into account. Consider things such as if someone you are thinking of designating already has kids, if they are in a relationship, and other aspects of their living circumstance. You’ll want to make sure this person is someone who will be able to provide a safe and supportive environment for your children.
With all of these factors in mind, decide on the best person for the job and designate an alternate if that person becomes unable to fulfill the duties. Parents often name a married couple who are relatives or close friends. If you decide to do this, make sure both spouses have legal authority to act on the child’s behalf.
Other special considerations
Other issues may be involved depending on your situation. If you’re divorced, for instance, your will may control the designation if your spouse dies before you do.
You may want to prepare a letter providing insights and explaining your choice of guardian for the benefit of the judge presiding over a guardianship matter.
Coming to a final decision
Make sure to designate a guardian in your will or review your choice of guardian if you have already named one.
For help with your estate plan, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.