You might think a will is necessary only if you have significant net worth, but that’s not true. A will can serve not only to distribute all your property according to your preferences, but also to nominate a guardian for your minor children.
Only a Probate Court can appoint a guardian, but a parent’s nomination usually carries considerable weight in the Court’s decision. That’s why you should take the time now to ensure that your minor children will be cared for by someone you trust, if you die before they are grown. Here are some points to consider regarding whom to nominate as a guardian in your will:
How to Select a Guardian
Choose someone who aligns with your values as a parent. Consider the person’s parenting style, geographical location, age, religion, marital status, lifestyle, physical/mental wellbeing, and stability, to name a few. Also take into account your children’s preferences, if they are old enough to participate in such an important discussion.
Your next step is to speak with the individual(s) you would like to name. Ask whether they would be willing to take on the responsibility of raising your children, should anything happen to you. Understand that nominating a guardian does not mean that the court will force them to take on that responsibility; the nominated guardian can decline to serve, for any or no reason. That’s why it is imperative to have a conversation with your potential guardian(s) before nominating them in your will, to ensure they are committed to rearing your children.
Some parents choose to name a list of potential guardians, with stated priorities of who is next in line if one of your nominees cannot serve. You may nominate as many people as you wish to serve as guardian in an ordered list. Since a will can be amended and should be modified if circumstances change, you may alter your guardianship nominations at any time.
At Mountain Dearborn, our estate planning attorneys have extensive experience drafting wills and advising families with young children. Please contact us to learn more.
Image: Juliane Liebermann