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Choosing a legal guardian for your young children

Generally, even people in their 20s and 30s should start formulating an estate plan. With an estate plan, you can identify who inherits your assets, helping prevent conflicts over your properties and give the loved ones you leave behind some peace of mind. Another important benefit is that it allows you to name guardians who will care for your young children after you pass on.

Why is it important to appoint a guardian?

If you die without identifying a guardian for your children on your will, the court may step in and name someone they deem appropriate for the role. Depending on specific circumstances, this person could be one of your family members or even a former spouse.

Unfortunately, the person the court appoints may not be your preferred guardian for your children. Worse, they might not possess suitable parenting skills. Your relatives might also reject the court’s decision, involving your children in a lengthy and messy court battle.

Who should you appoint as guardian?

In general, the person you choose to be your children’s guardian does not need to be a blood relative. It could be one of your friends. The following factors can help you choose.

  • Parenting skills. Guardians will effectively fulfill the role of parents, and this is a heavy responsibility. For this reason, some people choose friends or relatives who already have experience as parents.
  • Finances. Raising a child costs money, so it is generally ideal to select a guardian who is financially stable.
  • Living situation. As your kids will likely move into their guardian’s home, it is essential that you select someone who lives in a safe neighborhood.
  • Stage of life. An older guardian may have plenty of experience as a parent, but they might not have the energy to cope with the physical demands of guardianship.
  • Willingness. An unwilling guardian might not be able to muster the long-term commitment that guardianship entails.

There are many factors to consider when appointing a guardian and creating the rest of your estate plan. The assistance of lawyers and tax professionals can help you draft a plan that is enforceable and meets your requirements.