One of the most important aspects of writing a will is naming a guardian for your children if you and your spouse should pass away before your children turn 18.
In California, you can write a letter naming a guardian for your children or write it in your will.
Ultimately, the court will decide who the guardian is by using your input, by talking with your children and by considering what is in the best interest of the child.
But before you choose who the guardian will be, you should consider the following:
- Guardian of the estate vs. guardian of the person: There are two types of guardianships. Guardianship of the estate is responsible to manage the money and assets inherited by the child and a guardian of the person becomes a parent of the child and is responsible for the day-to-day care and decision-making for the child. You can choose to have the same person serve as both or have different people serve in each role.
- Multiple guardians: If you have multiple children, you may need to split the children between different guardians to reduce the burden onto the guardian. Ideally, you may want the children to remain together if they are young, but you will have to ultimately decide on what is realistic.
- Talk with the guardian beforehand: Make sure the guardian you have in mind is OK with taking on the responsibility of caring for and managing the assets of your child. This is not a small ask.
- Get everything in writing: After you have talked everything over with the potential guardian, consult an estate planning attorney who can draft all the necessary documents and file them in court on your behalf.
Choosing a guardian for your children is a particularly important decision that will have a considerable impact on the lives of your children. Having the legal support you need will help you through the process to ensure all of your decisions are legally binding.