Having kids is one of the most rewarding and challenging things you’ll ever do. Even before they are born, you make an emotional commitment to nurture and protect them; your plans are to raise happy, healthy children. If the worst happened and you were unable to continue raising them, who would give them the guidance, love, and support they need to reach maturity? Protecting your family includes naming your child’s legal guardian.
Your portfolio isn’t complete without an estate plan that appoints your child’s legal guardian. Within your estate plan, a document naming your child’s legal guardian may be the most important plan you put in place.
Your kids are your most valuable asset.
Understanding the Process of Appointing Your Child’s Legal Guardian
No matter what your financial status, naming your child’s legal guardian is a necessary parental responsibility. Later, your kids’ needs and the suitability of guardians may change. You’ll update your estate plan to accommodate those changes, but for now, focus on your family as-is.
Think about who would be the best legal guardian(s) for your child if you were unable to continue parenting.
Would they be willing?
Could they nurture your kids in the kind of environment you would want?
Appointing Caregivers for Your Kids
When you’re ready, your attorney will guide you and your spouse/co-parent. First, an overview of Arizona laws and regulations may be needed. Some states require court approval of a named guardian; Arizona allows naming your children’s guardians in your legal will. You may want to make two appointments: a guardian of person and a guardian of property (a financial guardian).
What to Consider
Losing a parent is hard enough for your children, so you want to make the transition as smooth as possible. –Michelle Ogborne
Your prospective guardians may share the same parenting style as you. Perhaps they don’t but would respect your wishes. It helps if their belief system runs parallel with yours. Do they view parental discipline responsibilities the same way you do?
Faith and church attendance may be an important part of your family life. Would your child’s legal guardian support your wishes regarding religion?
Your child’s age is another important factor.
Perhaps your parents would be the perfect guardians for your teen.
Your toddler needs younger, more active caregivers.
The gap between your brother’s children’s ages and yours is wide; the age diversity can be a problem or a blessing.
You have much to consider.
Dying Without a Will Can Cause Your Children Even More Grief
If the worst happened and you and your co-parent died intestate (without a will), the court will name a legal guardian for your kids. The legal bills may pile up as your loved ones argue about guardianship. Any emotional baggage you inherited may be passed on to your children if the wrong family members are appointed legal guardians.
An Arizona court or judge won’t know what you know about suitable guardians for your children. That confusion can be avoided by appointing your child’s legal guardian. The judge must make a logical decision based on family members’ abilities and willingness to raise your kids. A suitable, loving guardian for your children may be overlooked because you didn’t “put it in writing.”
Their Financial Future
Finally, when you choose your child’s legal guardian, you should make provisions for financial support. Your child’s legal guardian will be tasked with providing more than caregiving. Your attorney can help you determine how to distribute enough money for:
- Medical expenses
…All the things your children would have been automatically provided as part of your family. Piano lessons and annual ski trips with their church can continue to be part of your kids’ lives when you’ve made financial provisions for them.
Estate Planning for Your Family’s Future
Ogborne Law, PLC is an experienced Arizona estate-planning law firm. When you want affordable, professional guidance appointing your child’s legal guardian, let us schedule a needs assessment. It’s free and may be the first step on your path to protecting the ones you love most.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.