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Estate Planning To Cover Your Children

by Theresa Hoffman

If you are the parent of a minor child, you must turn your thoughts to who will care for them in the event of your death. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of estate planning to address since it involves far more than just financial matters. Read on for some considerations when it comes to choosing who will act as the guardian of your child after your death.

Are You Divorced or Live Separate from the Other Parent?

In all cases, the biological or legal surviving parent will get custody of your child should you pass away. In most cases, this provides the child with a caretaker and no guardianship is needed. If you have reason to believe that your ex-spouse is not a fit caregiver for your child, however, you must ensure that you explain your reasoning for bypassing them and appoint a suitable guardian. Along with a provision in your will, include your reasons for blocking the other biological parent from taking custody. You might include police reports, court transcripts, child custody evaluations, and other evidence showing the reasons why you were awarded custody of the child in the first place. If your will should be contested by the surviving parent, the information provided should prompt an examination of the parent to preclude automatically allowing them to gain custody.

Your Decisions Don't Have to Be Final

No matter how you choose to deal with this matter, you can (and should) revisit your plans every few years just to reaffirm your choices. A person that appeared to be appropriate a few years ago may now be less than desirable for an older child, for example. You can be flexible with your choices as well. If you have children of more than one relationship, you might consider going with different guardians for each child rather than keeping them all together. Some guardians might welcome one child but balk at more than one.

Don't Keep It a Secret

Waiting until it's too late to make changes is not wise. Be sure you have the full agreement of the guardian-to-be before you name them in your estate plan. If your children are old enough, you might want to have their input in the matter. Older children may have their own ideas about who they wish to take care of them after you pass away. If you appoint someone they dislike and they are old enough, some courts will allow them to challenge your wishes.

To find out more about this aspect of estate planning, speak to an estate planning and will attorney.