It’s a topic that no parent wants to think about, but avoiding it can lead to disaster. Who would care for your minor children if you and your spouse were to pass away? What would happen if you became disabled and could no longer take care of your kids?
If you don’t have a guardian appointed for your children, the Northern Virginia courts will decide who will raise them in your absence. Not only does this mean that your wishes for your child may not be followed, but going through court to have a guardian appointed for minors of deceased or permanently disabled parents can cause huge tensions for surviving adult family members and close friends.
What Does it Mean to Appoint a Guardian for Your Child?
Creating guardianship for your children helps you plan for your child’s future if the unthinkable were to happen. Guardianship is a legal document that automatically designates guardianship custody of your children in the event you are unable to care for them—without the courts deciding who is best fit to raise them.
Things to Consider When Appointing Guardianship for Minor Children
When it comes to appointment guardianship for your children, there are several factors to consider. These include:
Who will raise your children in a way that matches your parenting style and personal or religious beliefs?
Many parents want to know that if they were no longer able to care for their children, that the person or people who step in would love their children as their own, and raise them with the same values as them. Who in your family or close circle of friends meets these requirements?
Who is financially stable and responsible enough to care for your minor children?
If you were to pass away, your trustee will be able to access what you’ve left for your minor children in your trust or will. The children would also be eligible for a portion of your social security or disability benefits if you were to pass away.
But is the person you think would be great at caring for your children also great with money? While you can appoint a separate trustee to your estate to manage your children’s inheritance, you still have to rely on your children’s guardian to feed, clothe, and house your children. Sometimes, a person who would raise your children with your values wouldn’t necessarily manage their personal finances the way you’d prefer.
How old are your children currently? If something were to happen to you tomorrow, how long would a guardian need to care for them until they turn 18 and have graduated high school?
Some parents are unsure who to appoint guardianship to, and default to appointing grandparents. However, depending on the age of the grandparents, this may not be a good idea.
One of the goals of appointing guardianship is to create a loving, stable environment for your children after you’re gone. If elderly grandparents may become incapacitated or pass away while your children are still underage, they may not be the best people to whom you should appoint guardianship.
What’s the likelihood that the person you appoint for guardianship might be in a fatal or disabling accident with you?
While we admit it’s morbid, you have to consider whether or not you frequently travel with your chosen primary guardian. Is there a chance they could be in a fatal or disabling accident with you? If you frequently carpool or travel with your sibling or close friend, do you want to give guardianship to him or her?
For this reason, we recommend you appoint a primary guardian and contingent guardians for your children. For example, your guardianship may look like:
- Mom’s best friend since childhood
- Paternal uncle
- Maternal grandmother
By designating both primary and contingent guardians, you’re further protecting your children in the event the unthinkable were to happen to you.
Is There Anyone in Your Family You Don’t Want to Be Your Child’s Guardian?
Family dynamics can be complex. Your children may have a next of kin who you feel is ill-suited to care for your children in your absence. This makes appointment guardianships all the more important to ensure an estranged or disgruntled family member doesn’t end up raising your kids if you pass away.
How We Can Help
In our Northern Virginia trust and estate law firm, we care deeply about making sure your wishes are followed if something were to happen to you. All parents of minor children should have guardianship appointed. We can help you through the process quickly and affordably. To learn more, contact us today at (703) 938-3510 or Click Here to Get Started with a Free Consultation!