By Abigail Neal, Arizona Estate Planning Lawyer
What Do I Need To Know About Choosing A Guardian For My Minor Children?
A lot of the decisions people have to make when they create their estate plan are relatively easy. The house goes to this person, the money goes to that person, the jewelry and heirlooms get split up between the children, etc. However, there is another big reason to create a Will for people who have children under age 18.
For people who live in Arizona, pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-5202 the only place a parent can legally name a guardian for his or her minor children is a Last Will and Testament. This is where the decisions can become very difficult.
Who Should I Choose To Be Guardian?
Determining who should care for your children if something happens to you is a critical part of creating an estate plan. You need to consider who would be able to provide a stable environment and give your children the kind of care, support, education and upbringing you would have done yourself. While many people simply pick their parent or sibling, every parent should think about the potential guardian’s lifestyle and how a child would fit in with the potential guardian’s family. For example, your sister might be great with your kids, but her job requires frequent travel. Or, although your mother is fantastic with your children, she may not be able to physically handle the needs of growing children. All of these things must be considered when choosing a guardian.
What Issues Should I Be Aware Of?
Trying to decide on a guardian can create conflict between the parents. Perhaps one spouse wants to name her parents while the other spouse wants to name his parents. Working together to decide on a guardian is critical. If not, you may never get around to naming a guardian.
If parents don’t name a guardian and one is later needed, family members or other loved ones may argue about who should care for the children and be named guardian. This fighting is extremely emotional and is very difficult for children. It also has the potential to create serious issues within families. By working together and making this difficult decision ahead of time, parents can rest assured that they have done what’s best for their children and their families.
When you name a guardian, pick a primary guardian or guardians and also name one or more alternate guardians too. It’s important to name alternates because things can happen that make the first choice unable to actually serve as guardian.
Parents should also be sure to talk with each of their potential guardians to make sure they are willing to care for the children if needed. Raising and caring for a child is an enormous responsibility, so be sure get the go ahead from potential guardians before naming them in your estate plan.
Once parents decide on the guardians and create Wills naming those guardians, they can have peace of mind knowing that their children will have the best possible care with people that will love them and care for them just like the parents themselves would have done.