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How to determine who gets care of your kids in an estate plan

Some people planning out their estates put so much focus on their property that they overlook something far more valuable than simple possessions. A parent with minor children or someone with responsibility for a special needs adult will need to think about guardianship for the people who depend on them.

When you write out your will, you have an opportunity to name a guardian to care for your children. What steps help a parent determine the best candidate for this crucial role?

Consider your closest loved ones

Siblings, lifelong friends and even extended family members like cousins are all included in the pool of prospective guardians. You need to evaluate the people you know based on their personality and behavior.

You need someone compassionate, organized, trustworthy and responsible to take over your parental responsibilities. Someone young enough to keep up with the children but old enough to manage resources would make a better candidate than someone older than you or almost the same age as the children.

Discuss the responsibility with the candidates

When you have a handful of people that you think could potentially take care of your children if anything happens to you, you need to have a difficult conversation with each of those adults.

Some of them might disclose issues that they know will prevent them from serving as guardian, like a recent diagnosis with a progressive health concern. You obviously only want to choose someone who will accept the role without resenting your children or potentially choosing to decline the responsibility after you die.

Create oversight for the guardian

Even if you go to great lengths to pick someone who will treat your children with respect, having power over other people and access to someone’s inheritance can bring out the worst in many people. You may want to consider adding a trust to your estate plan to control what happens to your children’s inheritance or even naming co-guardians so that there will be others to weigh in on the care that your children receive.

There is no one right answer when it comes to naming a guardian for your children other than the obvious statement that failing to name a guardian puts their children at a real disadvantage. Adding the right terms and documents to your estate plan will help protect the people you love the most.