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Establishing child guardianship in an estate plan

When you draft your estate plan, you need to consider the worst-case scenarios when it comes to your children’s welfare. Establishing guardianship is one of the most challenging considerations for a parent or couple making their estate plans. You want to choose someone that you can rely on to raise your children in the way that you want them raised. Here are some considerations for your children when drafting an estate plan:

  • Education: This not only includes setting aside money in trusts for your children’s education but letters of instruction for the kinds of school (private, public) you want them to attend with requisite education style.
  • Religion: For many parents, it is incredibly important that a potential guardian would raise their children in a particular faith, whether or not that person has a personal commitment to it.
  • Parenting style: Is this person(s) a strict disciplinarian or a more relaxed parent. If the person doesn’t have children of their own, you should ask them how they were raised and how they are likely to raise a child. You want a guardian to reflect your values and cultural considerations.
  • Other children in the household: Choosing a guardian who has other children can help ensure that the person knows how to raise kids. Other children in the family can help to transition your children into this new family dynamic.
  • Income: You want to select someone with the income necessary to sustain their own family with the addition of your children.
  • Proximity to your family: If the chosen guardian is a friend, you may want to make sure that they are in reasonable proximity to other family members. This consideration can be essential to maintaining a support network for your children in case the worst happens.
  • The selected guardian(s) agrees: You need to have a long discussion with the person/family you choose to have guardianship over your children. They need to understand the arrangements you’re making as well as your expectations for raising them.

Safeguarding your children’s future

It is often a wise choice to select someone else to handle the money you set aside for your children. There can be a conflict of interest or temptation to use the money in other ways if the person raising your children has access and control over their funds. These considerations are only as good as the legal framework for maintaining your instructions. To draft an adequate estate plan, you need a skilled estate planning attorney to guide you through the process and contingencies. 

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