Estate Planning Isn’t Just For The Elderly

Happy, smiling couple in their sixties.

4 tips for selecting the right guardian for minor children

On Behalf of | Dec 7, 2023 | Estate Planning

Estate planning in New York is a way for an individual to protect themselves and the people they love. Those who are responsible for children and other dependent family members have to think about their safety and comfort when estate planning. They may need to name a guardian for their minor children, for example.

A guardian is an adult who serves the same role as a parent would. They take responsibility for an individual’s day-to-day needs, make decisions on their behalf and manage their resources. The guardian that someone appoints to care for their children in an estate plan could potentially be the most important person included in their documents.

How can a parent go about selecting the right guardian to meet their children’s needs if anything were to happen to them?

Think about proximity

Losing a parent is an incredibly disruptive experience for a child. Experiencing a disruption of their other relationships at the same time can make the experience that much worse. Choosing a guardian who lives outside of New York would mean that the children have to relocate and will lose close contact with their extended support network. The location where a guardian lives and their willingness to relocate can both be important considerations.

Look at existing relationships

The older the children are, the more likely they are to have an independent relationship with the individual named as their guardian. Parents may need to consider how the children in the family interact with the different people they consider for the position of guardian. A friendship is not necessary, but a relationship based on mutual trust and respect generally is. Evaluating the children’s dynamics with different candidates can help parents choose the best option.

Consider people’s personalities

Not everyone handles stress well, and some people have a tendency to procrastinate. Thinking about how individuals have navigated difficult situations previously and the personality traits they typically display can help parents determine whether someone can cope with the stress related to guardianship or not. Someone’s sense of ethics can also be important, particularly if they could have control over the children’s inheritance.

Think about age

Sometimes, the best candidate may be someone who is already past their prime. Grandparents and other aging family members often meet all of someone’s criteria for their children’s guardian but are old enough to be at risk of health issues or dying before the testator does. Choosing someone who is younger but also responsible is often a better option than choosing someone who is already retired or at an advanced age.

Selecting the right candidate to serve as guardian and discussing that choice with them will be of the utmost importance for those creating or reviewing an estate plan who need to protect the interests of minor children.