As a parent, you worry about your children every day. They are never far from your thoughts, and when you create your estate plan, you should consider what will happen to your minor children. Of course, this means using estate planning instruments like wills and trusts. It also means naming a guardian if children are below the age of 18.
Why should I name a guardian?
Without a named guardian, your children could be involved the Virginia child welfare system for at least a short period of time until a family member steps up to care for them. If no one is willing or able to care for your child, then the child could remain in the foster care system indefinitely until they reach the age of majority. Conversely, if multiple people want to step up, your child could be a ward of the state until a judge in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court resolves the situation. Preemptively naming a guardian can make it easier for your child to transition into a new situation after your death or incapacity.
What do guardians do?
If both parents die or become incapacitated, the guardian steps into the role of the parent. They take over the responsibility to care for your child and make decisions regarding the child’s living situation, education, and medical care.
Choosing the right person
Choosing the right guardian is a personal decision. Some parents choose the child’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings who are over the age of majority. You must also speak with that guardian to make sure they are willing and able to take the responsibility of caring for your child, and you should consider multiple backup guardians in case the primary guardian cannot do so.
Planning for the needs of your children is a hard conversation. However, your estate planning attorney can help walk you through the process, including selecting a guardian and funding the care of your children.