While it is an honor to be asked to be the guardian of someone else’s children in the event of a tragedy, there are three key considerations before agreeing to be named guardian in the estate papers.
My good friends, parents of two young daughters, recently went through the estate planning process where they created a family trust, wills and powers of attorney for financial affairs and health care. In this process, their lawyer stressed the importance of appointing a guardian for their children in the event that both parents should die before the children reach the age of 18.
For many parents, this is one of the most thoughtful and sometimes emotional decisions to make. I often hear from my clients that they assume a family member will step in, but there are a lot of important things to consider before choosing a tutor.
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My friends naturally thought first of their immediate family members as possible guardians. Grandparents have been taken into account, but depending on the age of the grandparents and their state of health, it may not be reasonable for a grandparent to assume the responsibility of caring for a child during potentially a decade or more. Also, if the grandparents have moved to a smaller home or moved into a 55+ community, there may not be living space for additional people in their home. , or that their community does not allow minor children as permanent residents.
Next Up: Siblings Considered Guardians in a Trust
Then they considered their own siblings. A beloved aunt or uncle may be willing to be a guardian if needed, but you need to consider whether they have their own family with children and how extra caregiving might be for the children. You may also disagree with the parenting styles or values you want your children to be raised with. These same concerns may also apply to other extended family members you may be considering.
In the end, my friends decided they would be more comfortable asking me if I would be their children’s guardian if they died prematurely, saying they felt comfortable than my role as ” honorary aunt for their children means that I love their children and that I would be able to raise their children as they hope. It was a huge honor to be invited. I told them I would think about it carefully and probably have a few questions.
Over the next week, I thought of important details that I needed to know before I could accept. Loving children was never in doubt, but the practicalities of possibly raising someone else’s children in what would most certainly be a tragic situation had to be addressed.
If you are asked to be named guardian in a family’s estate documents, here are some things to consider:
Financial considerations. If the parents were to die, are there enough assets to be able to raise the children into adulthood, or would you be expected to be able to support them? Do the parents have life insurance that they expect to provide the necessary money? If yes how much ?
What other assets would be available to care for the children? Would you be responsible for managing them, or are there other professionals involved? Are university savings funds already launched for children?
Even if you’re willing to take on the physical and emotional care of the children, you need to know if you’ll be providing them with financial care as well.
Legal Provisions. Is there a family trust? If so, who is the successor trustee of the trust? What are the terms of the trust related to the use of the assets? The most common revocable living trusts allow for the “health, education, maintenance and support” of beneficiaries, but there may be age requirements for the funds, or some funds may only be available. ‘after life stages, such as education, employment or marriage, are fulfilled, which would be useful to know.
Lifestyle choice. Understanding how parents expect their children to be raised is important for a tutor. Do parents expect their children to always live in the same community or even in the same house that they currently live in? Will they want their children to continue in the same school, attend the same religious institutions, or stay in the same neighborhood?
I have seen terms of trust which state that funds are available for the family home to be repaid and maintained because the guardian is required to move into the family home so as not to further disrupt the children’s previous lifestyle . There is nothing wrong with this arrangement, provided the guardian knows and accepts this expectation.
Even inquiries about hobbies and activities are an important point of discussion – are the parents confident that their children will play a certain sport or absolutely do not want their children to do an activity, and do they have written guidelines on what is “allowed” by the trust? One example I’ve seen is a restriction on paying for certain sports participation due to concerns about concussions – the trust could pay all fees related to low impact sports, but specifically prohibits paying for sports of contact.
If any of these types of lifestyle expectations create problems for the guardian, it’s best to discuss what the parents are willing to adjust, and if that’s not possible, you can decline. to be the guardian.
Being asked to be the guardian of children, knowing that your family member or friend is confident that you would raise their children well in their absence, is a huge compliment. And most people may be inclined to casually agree, out of love for the children involved, but in the rare cases that it actually happens, it’s imperative that you are realistic about what is being asked and the responsibility you are taking. agree to assume.
I said yes to the designation of guardian in the estate planning documents
In my case, the parents and I had an in-depth discussion about the plans they had made for their children and what they expected me to do if necessary. I said yes to being appointed guardian in their estate planning documents, confident that not only did I love their children, but I would also be reasonably able to meet the hopes and expectations of the parents if necessary.
In cases where a guardian is needed, simply loving the child is not enough, and good planning and communication can ease a difficult situation.
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Mercer Advisors Inc. is the parent company of Mercer Global Advisors Inc. and is not involved in investment services. Mercer Global Advisors is registered as an investment adviser with the SEC. The content is for educational and illustrative purposes only and does not imply a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any particular security or to engage in any particular investment strategy. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author as of the date of publication and are subject to change. The information is believed to be accurate, but is not guaranteed or warranted by Mercer Advisors.
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