Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Naming Guardians for Minor Children

Phew!  I’ve reached that point in life where I can relax – not much, but a little- because both of my children are adults and, for the most part, out of the nest.  Until just a couple of years ago, I broke out in a sweat every time I had to go out of town on business by myself.  Not only did I worry about whether my kids would get fed, get their homework done and make it to soccer practice on time, but I also worried about what would happen to them if I had an accident and didn’t make it home. 

If you have minor children, children under the age of 18, I’m sure you worry about that, too.  If you are not around, who will feed them, help them with their homework and get them to soccer practice?

Choosing someone to care for your children is difficult.  No one will care for and love your children the way you do, and, as far as I know, we can’t clone you.  However, if you don’t choose someone to raise your children if you’re not there, the probate court will have to make that choice and the court may not choose someone that you would like to raise your children. 

The only way to nominate a guardian in Georgia is in a will.  However, many people put off doing their estate plan because this choice is so difficult.  Here are a few tips for choosing guardians for your children.

First, make a list of everyone you would trust to take care of your children.  When making this list, don’t restrict yourself to the obvious choices.  Remember that if you choose no one, your children could end up in foster care.  If you had the choice of this person or foster care, would you choose this person?  If so, put them on the list. 

Most people limit their list to family members – parents and siblings- but think about your extended family.  Maybe your aunts, cousins, nieces or nephews would be good choices.  Try to think about whether their philosophy about raising children is similar to yours.

Second, would any of these people truly love your children?  Would they raise the children with the religious, social, and moral values that you would like?

Third, look at the personality.  Are they affectionate?  Good role models?

Fourth, be practical.  Would raising children hamper their lifestyle?  If a couple divorced, or one died, would you choose either one of them?

Fifth, look for someone who’s good, not necessarily perfect.  Remember, as we discussed above, you cannot be cloned.

Sixth, talk to everyone you are thinking of naming.  Make sure they are willing to serve, and explain what will be required of them.  Let them know that they should tell you now if they do not want to be nominated as a guardian of your children.

Finally, above all, make sure that you are the one that makes the choice – not the court.

In the next blog post, we’ll talk about writing letters of instruction for guardians.

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