Many parents begin planning for their child’s future even before they are born. An estate plan should be a facet of this planning. Because selecting a guardian can be overwhelming, I advise my clients to start small.
Make a list of traits that you want to have in a guardian, as well as a list of values that are important for you to pass on to your children. It also helps to rate the traits and values in terms of their importance to you. I recommend having each parent make his or her own list and then discuss them together.
Utilizing the list of values and traits you’re looking for, create a list of possible candidates, and give yourself some time to think them over. You want to select someone that you trust and that you believe has the ability to handle the responsibility of raising your child or children.
Many of my clients find this stage overwhelming, considering the different phases of a child’s life; who will be the right guardian when they are learning to ride a bike, have their first kiss, or are choosing between colleges? However because estate plans should be reviewed (approximately) every three years, I urge my clients to focus on this time period with their initial planning.
Once you have given yourself the time that you need, sit down with your spouse and narrow the list down to about three individuals. When you meet with an estate planning attorney you will discuss your list in order to put your guardians in the right order. During this time the attorney may ask you questions that you had not even considered. The attorney is not there to tell you who you should appoint as a guardian, but to help you come to a decision that maintains spousal harmony and has the best chance for success in the very unlikely instance that the plan will be utilized while your child is a minor.
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