If you have minor children, estate planning is a very important step when it comes to planning for your death. Failing to name guardians for your children in your will can lead to custody issues that are easy to avoid by simply taking the time to decide who you want to take care of your minor children in the event of your death. Determining who will raise your children if you die can be a difficult decision. For this reason alone many parents avoid the issue of custody decisions since they’re unable to find someone who they think will be the perfect guardian.
Avoiding the issue of guardianship is the number one reason why people fail to plan their estate or have a will. By procrastinating the decision about custody parents put their children at risk in the event of their death. Unless you name a guardian the courts will name someone they feel is right for the role of guardian. And this could be someone who you least wanted to have custody of your children. Court battles for custody can be long and drawn out, especially if there is more than one applicant who is seeking custody. This can place a huge financial and emotional strain on your children as well as deplete the assets from your estate. The worst case scenario is that no one applies to take custody of your children. The courts may decide to give custody to someone in your family who really doesn’t want the responsibility or your children may end up in foster care.
When planning your estate try to choose guardians for your children who you know will want to take them. Don’t feel that you have to choose a family member; friends you trust can also be ideal candidates. Consider separating guardianship of your children from the assets of your estate. By naming someone other than the guardian to be the trustee of your children’s money you ensure that there are some checks and balances in place when it comes to deciding how that money is spent.
Always have a backup named for the guardian in the event that your first choice is unable to accept the role. Keep in mind that if you name a couple as the guardian the issue of their breakup may become an issue and this can lead to a legal battle for custody. For this reason alone it’s a good idea to name individuals as guardians. If you’re divorced, consider your ex-spouse as the guardian. Most of the time, your ex will want to have custody anyway. Why make it more difficult by naming someone else as guardian and risking a lengthy court battle?