When most people think about estate planning, they think about leaving their assets to their loved ones. However, if you have minor children, appointing a guardian might be the most important decision you make in your estate planning.
A legal guardian has the responsibility of raising and caring for your child until that child reaches the age of 18.
If you don’t appoint a guardian, you will have no control over who cares for your children in the event of your death. Without a guardian named, the courts will decide who will raise your children. And that’s not a decision you want left to the whims of a judge, is it?
So, how should you go about choosing a guardian in your St. Petersburg estate plan?
Choosing a Guardian
When choosing a guardian for your child(ren), it’s important to consider carefully the following points:
- Who do you know who would best love and care for your children?
- Would the potential guardian want to care for your children? You might consider asking them how they would feel about being named as guardian. Give them time to think about their answer.
- Who do you feel is most equipped – emotionally and physically – to handle the challenge of raising children?
- What values do you want your children to grow up with? Whoever acts as your child’s guardian will be their primary influence when it comes to values regarding religion, politics, ethics, morals, lifestyle choices, parenting styles, and other personal beliefs.
- If you’re choosing a couple, consider how your choice would change if that couple separated or divorced. If you do choose a couple, consider which of the individuals you want to raise your children if the couple splits up. You will want to note this in your estate plan.
- While money isn’t everything, it’s important to evaluate the potential guardian’s financial situation and what it might be in the future. Financial stability can impact how your children are raised.
- How responsible is the guardian you have in mind? Consider their work life, personal life, financial choices, and more.
- Does your guardian in mind have a stable home situation? Do they own a house? Or have the means to consistently rent a place with enough room for your child?
- Does the potential guardian have a job that requires a lot of travel? This could create issues for your child.
- Consider the potential guardian’s physical and emotional health. Would they be able to devote the energy required to raising children? Can you predict any health issues that might impact their ability to focus on your children?
- Consider your child – their specific needs, personality, and circumstances. Can you easily imagine them adapting well to life with the guardian in question? If that potential guardian has kids or a spouse, can you see your child fitting in well with that family?
- Consider state legal requirements: in Florida, a guardian must be 18+ years of age and must have never been convicted of a felony.
In addition to your first choice, you should also include several other alternative options in your estate plan in case your first choice isn’t available or willing to take on the responsibility. And remember that if you feel that a distant member of your extended family or a friend is a better choice than a more “obvious” candidate, that is completely okay and normal. This is not the time to worry about hurting feelings. You need to choose who you truly think would be best to raise your child. This might mean that you choose someone who lives far away. But remember that your child having to move to another state or school or climate is better than having them live with someone who wouldn’t be their ideal guardian.
You also have the option to designate different guardians for different periods. For example, let’s say your child is 4 years old. You could name one guardian to raise your child until they reach the age of 10. And then appoint another guardian for when they are ages 10-18. This is a common choice for people wishing to appoint their parents as guardians but are concerned about their parents aging and not being able to continue with the same responsibilities.
Adding a Guardian to Your Estate Plan
Of course, it’s not pleasant to think about the worst happening. But choosing a guardian for your children as soon as possible can give you peace of mind and give your children a future that you truly believe is best for them. If you need help appointing a guardian in your estate plan in St. Petersburg, FL, contact The Baby Boomers’ Barrister at (727) 565-4250 or online.
100 2nd Avenue S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
3030 N. Rocky Point Drive W.
Tampa, FL 33607