Estate Planning: Child Guardianship

In the first three articles in this series, we discussed the general importance of estate planning and why ACCFS would be involved in this topic. We shared that it is because of the resulting relationship difficulties we see that arise from improperly planned and poorly communicated estates. In the second article we explored the health care aspects of estate planning. In the third article we discussed asset distribution and the various ways in which that can be carried out. We conclude this series by sharing thoughts on child guardianship.

Child Guardianship

“…for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” 2 Corinthians 12:14b 

This final area is perhaps one of the most difficult to discuss. No parent wants to consider the fact that he or she might be taken out of life before the children are raised. Unfortunately, it happens. As with the distribution of assets without a will (intestate succession), the courts will also decide guardianship of surviving children in the absence of a will and final directive. This arrangement may or may not be the most favorable. However, giving the court officials due credence, they will generally seek out the advice of family members before issuing directives. That advice, however, may be in conflict with your wishes and can cause dissension among families.

Any last will and testament needs continual updating as family dynamics change, but especially the part which pertains to guardianship as families grow and children age. Friendships evolve and someone who may have been considered a right fit to be a guardian for your children may have moved or are no longer deemed as the best fit. This is a very private decision between parents, but one that needs to be put in place for the welfare of their children. Additionally, the guardians should be aware of your intent and give their permission. 

Perhaps this series of articles has raised more questions than it has given answers. Our intent was to raise awareness of potential issues we see in these areas. There are many potential long-term problems which are easily preventable with proper forethought and proper communication with all of the parties involved. There are many professionals who can provide the resources and advice you need to make informed decisions. If you are among the many who haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to plan your estate, do so quickly. Your family will thank you. 

“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3