Choosing a guardian for young children is probably the most important estate planning step for parents. If anything happens to a child’s parent(s), the guardian that they name will assume responsibility for that child and manage their resources until they reach adulthood.
Guardians influence the financial and social circumstances of those who lose their parents and have a profound impact on their mental health as well. Unfortunately, those who are selecting a guardian or their children sometimes make one of the three significant mistakes below.
They focus on their relationships, not the children’s
One of the most common issues when selecting guardian candidates for minor children is to look too closely at how people interact with the parents and less at how they behave toward the children. Certainly, those that the parents in the family trust and respect are viable candidates, but not everyone who maintains a positive relationship with adults will have the compassion and patience to deal with children and teenagers experiencing grief and major personal changes. Thinking about those who have the ability to focus on and support the children will be very important.
They assume the best instead of guarding against the worst
When selecting a candidate, people tend to give their close friends and family members the benefit of the doubt regarding prior behavior or negative personality traits. Unfortunately, this may mean that someone with irresponsible tendencies could end up in a position of authority over children. It might also mean that someone who would misappropriate the children’s inheritance would have control over their assets. Recognizing that the intense stress of taking control over children or the temptation of control over their assets might bring out the worst in someone can help people make reasonable choices based on what they know of someone’s best and worst behaviors.
They don’t consider stability
Some people are in a truly positive situation where they have more than one viable candidate to serve as a guardian for their children. They may make the mistake of choosing someone who lives in another state or who has numerous children of their own, not stopping to think about how that could lead to massive disruption for the children should anything happen. Some people better serve their children by prioritizing those who are local and who have only moderate personal responsibilities or small families so that the children can receive the attention they deserve while the guardian seeks to minimize the disruptions to their daily lives.
The right guardian can greatly enhance the lives of children who have just experienced a personal tragedy. Seeking legal guidance to better avoid common mistakes during the estate planning process can help parents to more effectively protect themselves and their children from the uncertainties of life.