No parent wants to imagine a day when they will no longer be able to care for their minor children. Even when they do consider the possibility of this happening, they often have common misconceptions about how the process of establishing a guardianship works and what things should be considered..
Here are five very important things to keep in mind when planning the guardianship of your minor children:
1. Don’t Wait To Find The Right Person
One of the most common reasons people fail to choose a guardian for their minor children is because they were looking for the right person. Of course, you want to choose someone to raise your children who shares the same values that you hold, but it may be impossible to find someone whose values are exactly the same as yours. In fact, it is very likely that you will not.
Instead, you need to find someone who has a similar belief system and who is willing to instill in your children the values that you hold. Don’t wait until you have found the perfect person to appoint a guardian for your children. Wait too long, and a judge may end up making that decision for you.
2. Nobody’s Perfect
When choosing a guardian for your minor children, remember that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Instead of looking for someone who you believe will be a perfect parent to your children, focus on finding someone who at least agrees with the majority of your core values.
A friend or family member who shares many of the same core values as you, will probably care for your children in much the same way you would. The most important things you may want to consider include the person’s parenting style, religious beliefs, education, and financial aptitude.
Also keep in mind that as long as you are alive and mentally capable, you can change your selected guardian whenever you see fit. It’s not set in stone until you pass away.
3. Don’t Rely On Someone To Step Up
Most parents would like to believe that if something were to happen to them and their children were left alone, their closest friends and family members will all be fighting for the right to step up and take care of them. But, this is not always the case.
While many may want to step up, not everyone will be capable of doing so. Whether due to health issues, financial issues, or other personal issues, your family and friends may not be able to take on the responsibility of raising your children when the need arises.
For this reason, you should always designate an alternate guardian who can step up if your first choice of guardian is unable or unwilling to act when the time comes. If the person you appoint as guardian for your children is unable or unwilling to act, and you haven’t named an alternate, a judge will need to appoint someone else, regardless of who you want or don’t want as guardian of your children.
4. Discuss Your Expectations With The Potential Guardian
Raising a child is a huge responsibility. So, planning for guardianship of your children takes more than just choosing someone to be the guardian.
You should also sit down with the potential guardian and discuss your expectations with them. Let them know what you expect from them and ask if they are willing to accept this responsibility.
The court cannot force someone to be a guardian of your children simply because you chose them. If you fail to discuss your wishes with your chosen guardian ahead of time, and fail to determine their willingness to accept the responsibility, you may be setting yourself and your children up for disappointment.
5. Formalize Your Choice Of Guardian
An informal document, such as a letter or email, will be insufficient to establish guardianship of your minor children. This is because, no matter how clearly you spell out your choice of guardian in the letter or email, it is not a legally binding document.
While a judge may take the informal document into consideration, there will be many other issues for the judge to consider as well, including the credibility of the person appointed in the informal document and whether or not anyone challenges the appointment.
If you are going to take the time to choose a guardian for your children, why not also take the time to make it legally binding? Without a legally binding document, such a Will, that establishes guardianship for your minor children, a judge will make this decision for you. Consult with a qualified attorney to assist you in this process.
Consult With A Qualified And Experienced California Estate Planning Attorney
If you have any questions regarding planning for guardianship of your minor children or any other California estate planning needs, please feel free to contact The Law Offices Of Bridget Mackay today at 707-769-9975, or visit our contact page to get in touch with us.