How Do I Name a Guardian for My Young Children?

Parents of young children never want to think about passing away before their children are old enough to take care of themselves. Our job as a parent is to provide care, guidance, and support for our children until our children are capable of taking care of themselves. Unfortunately, some parents will not live long enough to watch their children grow into independent adults. It is a terribly sad thought, but it is a reality. Therefore, as parents, it is also our job to prepare for the unthinkable so that our children will have the care and support they need if something happens to us.

An estate plan is the best way to ensure that your young children are taken care of if you pass away. Let’s take a look at one very important function of a will — naming a guardian for your minor children.

Naming a Guardian for Children in Your Will

Most people think about a will as the document that dictates the distribution of property after their death. However, another important function of a will is to name a guardian for your minor children. If you do not have a will or you do not name a guardian for minor children, the state could step in to decide who raises your children after your death.

If one parent passes away, the other parent assumes sole care of minor children, unless the state terminates parental responsibilities because the parent is unfit. If there is not a parent willing and able to care for the child, the state chooses a guardian. In cases in which there is no one willing to step into this role, the children could be placed in foster care.

To avoid the state choosing who raises your child after your death, you can execute a will naming a guardian for your child. You can also name a substitute guardian in case your first choice for a guardian cannot take care of your child for any reason.

The choice of a guardian is one of the most important aspects of an estate plan. The person you choose will be responsible for stepping into the role of a parent for your young child. Therefore, careful thought should be given to several factors including:

  • The person’s age and health;
  • The financial stability of the person;
  • Whether the person can provide a safe and loving home for your child
  • Whether the person shares your religious beliefs and general morals; and,
  • Whether the person will continue to encourage a close and loving relationship between your child and other family members.

Of course, the main factor to consider is whether the person is willing to serve as guardian. Before naming anyone in your will as guardian, you should have a serious conversation with that person. You may want to tell the person to take some time to think about your request before giving you an answer.

Setting Up a Testamentary Trust

You can also set up a trust for your minor child within your will. A simple testamentary trust typically places your child’s inheritance in a trust to be managed for the education, upkeep, and support of your child until your child reaches a certain age. At that time, your child receives the inheritance. The person you choose as guardian may also serve as the trustee, or you may choose another person.

If you do not set up a testamentary trust for your child, the court will appoint someone to serve as trustee. Upon turning 18 years of age, your child receives his or her inheritance. Many parents choose to use a trust to prevent their children from receiving an inheritance until they are at least old enough to have graduated from college.

Contact a Michigan Estate Planning Attorney for More Information

Preparing for your death is not an easy subject to discuss. However, it is an essential conversation you need to have, especially if you have young children.

The Michigan estate planning lawyers of The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry assist parents in preparing an estate plan that protects their children should anything happen to them. Call 888-390-4360 or use the contact form on our website to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

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