The possibility of being unable to care for one’s own children is difficult to envision, but it should be addressed during the estate planning process. Selecting personal guardians who will assume responsibility for the upbringing of children is a decision that must be carefully considered.
A personal guardian should, of course, be a trusted friend or family member. Often the first people who come to mind are grandparents. While grandparents often step in to care for grandchildren if parents are unable to do so, naming them as guardians may not be advisable. Possible health issues and the physical capacity to provide care are legitimate concerns, particularly if the children are younger.
Another factor to consider is the number of children to be provided for, as well as the number of children the named guardians may have. If there are more than one or two kids, one should make sure the guardians have the time and emotional capacity to care for the children, particularly if they have children of their own. This is especially true if any of the kids have special needs.
Finally, it is not enough to name one guardian of the children, and it may not be enough to name two. Parents should speak with and confirm several candidates to protect against the unavailability or unwillingness of one or more to serve should they be needed. It is also wise for parents to designate anyone they would not want or trust in the role of guardian.
Choosing personal guardians for children can be an overwhelming process, and it’s always prudent to seek guidance from an experienced trusts and estates attorney.