A Will is more than an estate planning document used to distribute property. One of the most important reasons to have a Will is to appoint guardians for your minor children. So often parents delay their estate planning because they cannot decide which persons will be the best guardian for their minor children. If the parents should die without a Will appointing guardians for their minor children, a judge may have to make the decision as to the guardian (this should be avoided!).
Guardianship lasts until the age of majority (eighteen). Guardians are entrusted with the care and protection of the minor children, and oversee the childrens’ daily affairs (much like a parent). Guardians are also entrusted with medical decisions and other important decisions, including those related to education and finances.
Guardianship of children is separate and apart from the guardianship of one’s assets. In fact, often parents desire to divide the responsibility of guardianship of the assets, with guardianship of the children. The guardian of the assets makes the decisions relative to investments, distribution of assets, etc. In more complex cases, a bank or other financial institution may be appointed as guardian of the assets, or, at the very least, co-guardian.
In determining the most appropriate persons to act as guardians for your minor children, it is important to discuss the most important issues with the proposed guardians prior to their appointment. Upon discussion, you may find that the proposed guardians do not desire to be placed in such a role due to age, health, or difficulties in their own lives that would make it difficult for them to do so. It is equally important that the persons you select to be guardians for your minor children continue to desire to do so long after your Will is drafted. In the event the guardians do not desire to serve on your death, a court will most likely have to decide the guardianship. For this reason, and also the potential that the appointed guardians may be unable to serve due to death, disability, or otherwise, it is always best practice to name backup or contingent guardians in the event that the first named guardians are unable to serve.