Guardian Myths

11/23/2011

A recent article in The Huffington Post examined four dangerous myths about selecting guardians for children in your estate plan which I thought was interesting.  The myths in the article are:

1.   That there is a perfect match for your children, you just have to figure out who that is and then you’ll get your estate plan in order . The truth is, there is probably no one more perfect for your children than you. Trying to find your equal will not work. In fact, it has caused many people to completely forego doing an estate plan because they can't find that perfect person.  Think about your family and friends and try to envision where your children would be most comfortable and safe and happy. Remember, you can always change your choice as your children grow and change.

2.   Someone will just step up, you don’t need to pick someone. The danger here is that you are leaving the choice in the hands of a judge who has never met your children, and you aren’t around to say “no, wait, that’s not who I would have wanted!”  Being a parent is all about responsibility.  Be the responsible parent that your children needs you to be and make a choice. Then take the steps needed to put that choice in legal documents so that you are choosing for your children and not leaving it up to chance.

3.   You’ve written a letter or an email with your wishes, and think that’s enough. Do you think that the file hidden in your computer is sufficient? Or that the letter on in your desk will be honored ? While it is good that you have thought this through and made a decision, you need to go to the next step and make it legal.  If you have come this far, the rest is relatively easy.

4.   You don’t have to ask the guardians if they would be willing to serve, since they will probably never need to serve and you don’t want to have that conversation. The danger here is that you won’t be around when they need to serve, so you should talk to them now about your wishes (in addition to writing them down in a legal document). Make sure they want that role, and assure them that you’ve appointed alternates to serve if they can’t, and let them know that they should alert you if they don’t feel they are able to serve in the future (due to a divorce, addictions, moving out of the area, etc.).  Also let them know that you have provided financially for your children so that they do not think they will need to do so. In addition, if your child has special needs make sure they feel comfortable taking on the additional responsibilities.