One of the most important and emotional aspects of estate planning for parents is selecting guardians for their children. This task is important, as it ensures someone is named to care for the children if both parents are incapacitated or have passed away. Those who are approached to be guardians often feel honored by the request; however, even those who are eager to be named in the trust as a guardian should get some clarity on the following issues before fully agreeing:
- Financial responsibilities. There are many costs associated with raising children. Before agreeing to be named as guardian, it would be worthwhile to ask whether the parents have a plan for these expenses. Is there an insurance policy, trust or savings available for the raising of the children? Or will the guardian be expected to shoulder all expenses? This is important to clarify to avoid surprises if guardianship is enacted.
- Legal situation. It is a good idea for anyone agreeing to guardianship to understand how the parents’ estate plans are structured. If there is a family trust, for example, it is worth asking what terms are in place regarding the use of assets in that trust. This will be important not only regarding the cost of raising the children but for providing clarity to the children as to when they might receive an inheritance.
- Lifestyle expectations. When parents name someone as guardian, they may have certain ideas about how that person will parent their children in their absence. It is a good idea to make these assumptions explicit. Prospective guardians should ask questions about whether the parents expect them to stay in the same community, attend a certain religious institution, or continue with certain activities that may be an additional time commitment.
Overall, as with anything, it is wise for someone to know what they’re getting into before agreeing to care for children as a named guardian in estate plans. While the answers to these questions may not change one’s willingness to take on that role, the clarity provided by these conversations can be very important should the guardianship end up kicking in. Individuals looking to plan for their children in this way should contact an Oregon estate planning lawyer.