Q: Why do I need a will?
It’s safe to say that no one wants to think about their own death, especially if they have young children. But that’s the most important reason for parents to see a Santa Barbara estate planning attorney. Because the only way parents can ensure that their children will be raised by the person(s) they want is by naming legal guardians in a last will and testament, more commonly known as a “will”.
Even for parents who know this, it’s not always easy to make such an important decision. When parents can’t agree on whom to appoint as the guardians, they may also back burner seeing an estate planning attorney out of frustration.
It’s important for parents to envision the chaos that will ensue when squabbling friends and family on both sides are petitioning the court to raise the young children already devastated by the unexpected loss of their parents. It is not safe to assume your children will end up with the people you would have chosen if you had only found the time to have a will prepared. The reality is, that the court can choose anyone for the job—even a stranger to your children depending on your circumstances–so it’s best for parents to find a way to come to an agreement on this important decision.
What to Consider When Appointing a Guardian
Some of the factors to consider when deciding whom to appoint as the guardian(s) of your children include:
- Geographic location. It goes without saying the unexpected loss of their parents will devastate children, so keeping as much of their lives as stable as possible is important. Try to keep children in the familiar settings of their current school, town, and community and avoid uprooting them.
- Avoid grandparents. Generally, it’s best to avoid appointing grandparents if there are other suitable, younger alternatives. While the grandparents may be active and healthy now, they are less likely than younger alternatives to remain so for another 20 years – and their death would be further disruption to the children’s lives.
- Temperament and values. When considering guardians, think about who would raise them closest to the way you would have or consider people who are doing a good job parenting their own children.
- Financial habits. If the person you want to raise your children is not good with money, consider appointing them as the legal guardian of the child but appointing a different, trustworthy and financially-responsible person as the trustee in charge of your child’s money.
Couples should also periodically reconsider whether their original choices in guardians should remain or be modified. A change in circumstances that may warrant a modification of the legal guardians could include a falling out, a divorce, a relocation, a death, and other factors.
Contact Our Santa Barbara Estate Planning Attorney
If you need help with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning attorneys at GM Law, P.C. can help you. Contact us today for a free consultation.
From our offices in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley in California, we help our clients preserve their assets, protect their families, and create a legacy.
Posted in: Estate Planning