Choosing someone to raise your child in the event you die is a daunting task. While godparents can be a potential choice for a guardian, without documentation from your will to nominate a personal guardian, your wishes may not be honored. Below are a few pieces of information I gathered from my research into the topic of guardianship:
Finding a Personal Guardian
If something were to happen me, the most logical person to take care of my minor child would be my spouse. If the unspeakable were to happen and both of us were to die – we would need and agree to find a personal guardian. If you are considering a guardian to name in your will, you may need to ask yourself the next two questions:
Who would love, care, and raise this child?
Would this person be able to manage any money and/or property for the child(ren)?
You need to feel confident in your choice as well as ask this person if they are comfortable being the named guardian. Some family member may be better equipped financially to take on the role of guardian for your child, while others may not. Whatever you reason for your choice, stick by it. Be aware that you may change guardianship in your will at any time, especially in the event your nominated guardian no longer is a viable option.
Put it in your Will
Once you have decided on who will be your personal guardian for your child, make sure to contact a local estate-planning attorney to create or add this to your will. In your will, you can nominate your choice for the personal guardian. One thing to note: personal guardians cannot actually serve as the legal guardian until it is approved by a court. In most instances, the judge will approve your nomination, but if the guardian has any personal issues, the judge can appoint someone else. Leaving a handwritten letter including the reasons why you chose that person and why the choice is good for your minor child might be something you want to include in your estate planning documents.
The Uniform Transfer to Minors Act
The Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) is a device that can be used to leave property or life insurance to your children. Under the UTMA, you can name your child’s guardian as a “custodian” to help supervise the property or money until the child becomes of age.
One way to help your guardian with the expense of adding a new child into their life would be to purchase term life insurance. You name your child as the beneficiary, and then name the “custodian” under the UTMA. Other things to consider for life insurance might be any debts that your estate must pay off (home mortgage, student loans and credit card debt) and costs for that child’s future education.
Although estate planning is an uncomfortable topic, without proper planning, your wishes will not be carried out. The only way to make sure they are is by meeting with an estate-planning attorney and finalizing these documents for guardianship. Remember to ask your guardian if they want to serve and stick to your decision, put it in your will and use the uniform transfer to minors act to help your new guardian with their expenses. That way in the event something happens to you and/or your spouse everything financially is covered for your child.
*This post was originally written in October 2014 and has been updated for July 2020.