4. Why You Need Guardians If You Have Young Children.

This is part 4 in my series, Estate Planning – What You Need to Know.

Why You Need Guardians if You Have Young Children.

If you have young children, the most important part of your estate plan is naming the guardians to raise your children if something happens to you and your spouse.

Typically, the guardians are named in the will. If the estate plan has a revocable living trust, the guardians are named in the pour-over will.

Naming guardians is not easy.  But if you have young children, you have to do it. If you don’t name guardians and something happens to you and your spouse, the court will have to decide who will raise your children.

Some of my clients have an easy time naming guardians. They have parents or siblings who are well qualified.

But many of my clients aren’t so lucky. They have a hard time deciding on the right people.

Here’s what I tell my clients who can’t decide on a guardian.

First. No one will be as good as you. No one is perfect (except you of course). If you are gone, someone you choose is better than the court choosing.

Second. The only people you can really choose from are those already in your personal network. Your network consists of your family and close friends. Some good. Some bad. Be realistic. Make the best choice of those in your network. That’s all you can do.

Third. You can always change your mind later. Most of my clients change their guardians every few years as their situation changes. You may meet someone with similar nurturing skills or your relatives may have matured into better parents.

Just know your choice is not permanent. Every decision we make today can only be made based on what we know today. If tomorrow changes, you can change your plan.

Knowing you can change your choice of guardians should take the pressure off. Your choice doesn’t have to be perfect, but you do need to choose.

Next up – Part 5. What if You Only Have a Will?

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Comments

  1. Great post, Clark. The issues of fiduciaries, especially guardians, is always tough for clients. Knowing who to trust and who can care for children can really stymie the estate documentation process. But your point is a good one; do the best you can in naming a person or persons in your current universe to do the job.

  2. Thanks Steven. Always appreciate your comments. Sometimes when a client says she has no good choice for guardian in her personal network, I will say: “If you don’t have a good choice, choose the least bad choice.”