The thought of passing away and not being able to raise your kids is certainly one that none of us hope that we ever have to experience or endure. However, the thought of our children being involved in a legal dispute over who's going to raise them and having them go in and out of court after the loss of their parents is even more haunting and disturbing.
If you want to be in control of who is going to raise your kids and who is going to make sure that they can distribute the money to them to take care of them financially, it is imperative that you take efforts to name a legal guardian for your children. Otherwise, a judge will be the individual to decide who will ultimately raise your children, often amidst litigation and argument among numerous family members.
We are often asked in our office who is the best person to name as the legal guardian for children and who should be the trustee of said children to distribute the money to them.
Although there are certainly no perfect answers, we wanted to provide some thoughts, ideas, questions and comments in order to be able to help narrow your options and assist you with this decision.
- Who in your life shares the same values as you and is as patient to raise your children?
- Based upon the individuals that you are thinking of, how many children do they have on their own and would adding your children to their family be insurmountable? Do they have the stamina to be able to raise all of the children – not only their own but yours?
- If you are not related to this person by blood, would you still consider this person to be the right choice to raise your children? We often find that people will look typically to other siblings or family members, not because they think that they are the right choice but simply because they are blood and believe that they have to do that.
- Have you talked to the person or people that you are thinking of naming? Are they willing to undertake the responsibility of being a legal guardian to raise your children? We recommended that you contact those individuals to verify that they are willing and able.
- Does the age of your potential person cause a problem? For example, are they under 18 or are they of an age that they are slowing down and not able to take care of themselves, let alone other individuals? We often find that children want to name their parents as the guardians and forget that as their parents get into their later years, it is difficult for them to raise children, particularly young children who are very ambitious and very strenuous.
- Does the person or people that you are thinking of have a deep enough connection with your children or a significant personal relationship with you and your family?
- Do the people that you are thinking of live locally to where the kids would not have to change school districts? If not, have you discussed this possibility with your children if they are old enough to understand and how they would react to that or, have you discussed with potential legal guardians the possibility of them moving to your hometown in order to get your children out of high school or at least of an age that moving them would not be problematic?
- Do the people that you are thinking of have the financial means to undertake such an endeavor? It is imperative that you plan ahead to provide, in case you are gone, and we would recommend that you talk to a financial planner to discuss ways to provide for your children, such as life insurance and other vehicles. That would allow the guardian to be able to get access to money on behalf of the children, which is certainly important.
Whether or not the trustee and the guardian are the same people is a personal choice. Some people believe that you should separate the person who is raising your children from the people who are in control of the money on behalf of the children, such as a checks and balance situation. Others feel that if you trust the individual with your kids, you should trust them with the money. Although I personally do not believe that there is a perfect answer for all people, I think that it is definitely something that everyone should think about, and oftentimes, the people who you are thinking of will dictate the answer.
These are a few questions and thoughts and ideas that people should think about in regard to who to name as the legal guardian and trustee for their families. If you would like to have additional information or to discuss this further, please give us a call at 717-845-5490.