No parent likes to think about the possibility of passing away, but it’s wise to take the time to name a guardian for your child just in case. Naming a guardian for your child or children is one of the most critical estate planning decisions a parent can make. It can also be an incredibly challenging decision. After all, you’re choosing the person or people who will be in charge of your children’s future.
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we have helped many parents create comprehensive estate plans. We always advise parents to take the time to carefully consider who they will name as a guardian for their children. There is no time like the present to create an estate plan for you and your children. For parents of young children, naming a guardian is of critical importance. At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we know how to ask our clients the right questions to help them name a guardian and create an estate plan tailored to their needs. Contact our office today to set up your consultation.
Naming a First Responder for Medical Emergencies
Many parents consider the need to name a long-term guardian for their children should they pass away. However, naming a first responder for medical emergencies is also important. What happens if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to care for your children? If you become incapacitated while your children are in someone else’s care, legal issues could arise.
For example, if your children are in the care of a relative without documented legal custody of your children, law enforcement or Child Protective Services could remove them. Authorities could take your children into temporary foster care. The courts will determine the best way to proceed. Eventually, a Massachusetts court would determine who has the legal authority to take custody of your children through the guardianship process.
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we can ensure that your first responders have the appropriate legal documentation they need to have your children stay with them during a crisis. We can also help you draft clear instructions for the caretakers. It is wise to make sure your appointed first responders know that you’ve appointed them. We recommend taking the time to write instructions for your first responders that includes the following information:
- Your children’s school schedule
- Your children’s primary care physician and any specialist doctors they see
- Your children’s daily routine
- Any food or other allergies
Naming a Long-Term Guardian for Your Children in Writing
Many parents have discussed who to name as a guardian for their children. Some have even agreed on a guardian and told their preferred guardian of the arrangement. Unfortunately, verbal agreements are not enough when it comes to naming a guardian for your children. When you have not named your designated guardian in writing, family conflict can arise.
Perhaps the children’s grandparents feel they should be the guardians, but the parents appointed an uncle verbally. The grandparents could fight to become guardians at court and could succeed when no written document exists, naming a long-term guardian. Without a written document, the state of Massachusetts will decide who to appoint. The state may not appoint the person you had in mind. Massachusetts courts nearly always select a family member over a friend, for example.
What if You Can’t Decide Who Should Be the Guardian of Your Children?
Choosing a guardian can be extremely difficult, especially for parents who do not have many living relatives or who do not trust their relatives to raise their children well. You may not know who you’d like to be your child’s guardian. You likely have at least one family member who you would not want to raise your child. The risk of not naming a guardian because of uncertainty is too high. By not naming a guardian, you risk the court appointing a family member who you would never want to raise your children.
Tips for Naming a Legal Guardian for Your Child
If you are uncertain as to who to name as the legal guardian for your children, here are a few tips to help you in the process. First, consider your values as a parent. If it is important to you that your child grows up within a specific religion, consider who will ensure they raise your children in your faith. Also, consider your educational goals for your children. If you’d like your children to attend college, consider which friends and family members would support your child and encourage their educational pursuits.
Factor in the age and health of potential legal guardians. Your children might have wonderful and engaged grandparents. However, if their grandparents are in poor health or are considerably older, they may not be able to meet the physical demands of parenting, especially when it comes to young children. Consider relatives who live far away. In some cases, moving to a new city would be worth choosing an excellent guardian.
Take into account the guardian’s financial stability. Some family members and friends would love to be guardians of your children but are not financially stable enough to care for children. If you are setting up a trust and naming your children as the beneficiary, consider which guardian could use the money provided for your children responsibly.
Make Your Intentions Known and Create a Financial Plan
After you’ve selected a guardian, it is essential to make your intentions known in writing. Taking the time to write down your plans and wishes will help your children make a better transition, and it will decrease the chances of family conflict. Your appointed guardian will benefit significantly from having a detailed plan of how you’d like your children to grow up.
Finally, work with an estate planning law firm to ensure that your children will have access to your assets. Without the proper legal documents, a guardian will not be able to access the money in your bank account or your property assets. By setting up a proper estate plan, your children will be able to access much-needed funds immediately after your death.
Contact Our Family Estate Planning Lawyers Today
When it comes to naming a guardian for your children, there is no time like the present. Taking the time to create an estate plan and ensure your children are well-cared for will give you peace of mind. Contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.