If you have minor children, perhaps the most important component of your estate plan has nothing to do with your assets. Rather it involves the decisions regarding who will care for your minor children if you cannot, commonly know as “NOMINATION OF GUARDIAN FOR MINOR CHILDREN”. The selection of a guardian for minor children is one of the toughest decisions that a parent has to make during the course of estate planning. With a little planning, a lot of the frustration can be removed from the process. Typically, the nomination of a guardian is set out in an individual’s will. If you do not have a will, it is critical to have this document prepared in order to provide an election for your child’s guardian. In the alternative, a stand-alone nomination of a guardian can also be prepared. In the course of practice, I have found that the client has asked me for guidance in this area and I have found the following the best advice I can give. Make a list of people whose values, morals and judgment are most congruent with yours. Once you have that list, select someone on the list who is financially able to be a guardian to your children. The combination of morals, values, and judgment AND financially stability are critical to selecting an effective guardian for your minor children. Once you have done this, consult with a trusted attorney to have a will prepared which provides for the nomination of a guardian for your minor child.
While we often focus on the values, morals, and judgment, often parents neglect the financial impact of being named as a guardian. Thus, I like to remind clients of a few questions they should ask themselves once they have made their list of people with the right morals, values, and judgment to be guardian to their children: First, “Will the guardian be capable of managing your children’s assets?”
Raising children is a daunting task in and of itself. It is critically important to make sure that your selection of a guardian is also up to the task of managing any assets that may be set aside for the benefit of your children. If you prefer, you may select separate guardians for your children and their assets and ensure that your children and their assets receive the best care.
Second, “Is the person you have selected financially strong?” Often parents select guardians for their children without consideration as to whether their selection is financially capable of handling another child. For example, your sister who already has three children may not be in a financial position to accept another child into her home. As we all know there are a lot of hidden costs in raising children, having a frank discussion with your prospective guardian can ensure that your decision does not create a financial burden for someone which directly ties into the third and fourth questions I ask parents.
Third, “Will the home of your prospective choice for guardian accommodate your children?”If your prospective guardian lives in an apartment or for instance in a four bedroom house with three children of their own, how will they accommodate your kids?
Finally, Forth, “How will your guardian determine your children’s living costs?” While there is no right answer for these questions, the exercise of attempting the answer them can provide very helpful for parents selecting a guardian as part of their broader estate planning.
Peter D. Antonoplos, Esq. is a partner in Antonoplos & Associates. Mr. Antonoplos’ practice focuses on estate planning and real estate matters. Mr. Antonoplos is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, New York State; and the State of Maryland. Mr. Antonoplos routinely lectures on real estate and probate law issues in Washington, DC and New York. Mr. Antonoplos lives in North West Washington, D.C with his family. He is an avid chess player and motorcycle enthusiast. He may be reached at 202-803-5676 or Peter@AntonLegal.com