If you’ve named guardians for your kids in your Will alone, you’ve likely made one or more of these 6 common mistakes:
- You may have named a couple to act as guardians for your children when you don’t really want both people in the couple to raise your kids. But, if you are like most people, you have not indicated what should happen if the couple broke up or one of the partners in the couple was in an accident with you.
- You may not have named enough backup choices to serve as guardians in case your first choice cannot serve. We recommend naming at least two alternatives to your first choice.
- You may have considered the wrong things when choosing your guardians. For example, you may have decided against someone because they were not “good with money” people or didn’t have enough financial resources. But, that’s the wrong thinking. Your guardians should be the people who share your values and will make the best health care, education, housing, discipline and care decisions. It’s your responsibility to leave enough money behind to take care of your children either through savings or life insurance and you can name someone other than your guardians to take care of that money.
- You may have not provided for anyone to take care of the money you are leaving behind for your kids or you may have provided for that money in the wrong way. If you are leaving behind money (which you need to be, even if all you have is a life insurance policy), you need to leave it to your kids in Trust, not just through a Will or through a beneficiary designation.
- You probably did not confidentially exclude anyone who might challenge your guardianship decisions. If there is anyone in your family you know you do not want to ever raise your kids, you will want to specifically exclude them from serving.
- You probably have not planned for the short-term/immediate care of your children. Your guardian nomination provides for the long-term, but what happens right away? You need to also name guardians for the short-term (people who live in your community and can be there until your permanent guardians can be contacted), make sure your short-term guardians know what to do if anything happens, and have legal documentation, carry an ID card in your wallet, and give written instructions to your caregivers and schools.
No matter what you do, please make sure you have a comprehensive plan in place for the care of your children. Like all parents, you have opinions about how your children are raised. Make sure those opinions are known and heard and not left in the hands of a Judge who doesn’t know you.