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Parents of Minor Children Should Plan for the Appointment of a Guardian

As estate planning attorneys we are frequently asked when, or even if, someone really needs to do an estate plan. Our go to answer is often – sooner rather than later. That said however, there are some situations which are almost mandatory for some type of estate plan. One of these situations is parents with minor children.

Minor Children Require Special Consideration

Children present several issues during the estate planning process. These include whether money should be held in trust for the children’s care and education, who should hold any money designated for the children, what types of expenses should be funded by the money and finally when or how the children will ultimately have access to any remaining funds. All these issues can and should be dealt with in a comprehensive estate plan.

While the financial considerations are important, probably the most important issue, from a parent’s perspective, is the choice of who will raise their minor children should the unthinkable happen. While every parent believes that they will be able to raise their children to an adult, that does not always happen. The naming of a Guardian is therefore probably one of the most important parts of the state plan prepared for parents of minor children.

Should the Court decide?

If a parent passes without naming a guardian for the minor children, the probate court is left to make the decision. Frequently this task will fall to grandparents, aunts or uncles or other close relatives. Ultimately the court will decide who will retain custody of the minor children based upon how the court views the children’s best interests and who the judge determines to be able to best provide for those interests. The court does not have any long-term experience or knowledge of the children or those seeking custody. It can only decide based on what is presented during a relatively short hearing or two. Obviously, a parent would be in a better position to pick who should care for minor children and parents should do so as part of the estate planning process.

Although an important part of an estate plan, the naming of a Guardian is only one part of the planning process. It should be considered if either a will or trust is used. We can incorporate the naming of a Guardian as part of our process when we complete your estate plan.

Let Us Help You

Any competent estate planning lawyer will assemble a list of your assets to ensure that we understand all the pieces that must be addressed in an estate plan. The estate plan itself will address each of those pieces so that there is no conflict between the various documents that are put into place. Unfortunately, clients run the risk of leaving conflicting instructions if a piecemeal approach is taken or the client simply orders a fancy will from some online service that cannot legally provide legal advice or counseling.

The estate planning attorneys of Penzien & McBride, PLLC have been helping families and business owners to make these types of decisions for nearly two decades. If you are looking for a compassionate professional that can help you through the estate planning process, or if you would like additional information about our services, give us a call at (586) 690-4400 or complete our contact us form.