Over the years, I've worked with hundreds of Minnesota families to help them put a plan in place to legally protect what matters most to them. I've also had the opportunity to speak with thousands of other families, fellow attorneys, and financial professionals from across the U.S.
I frequently see common mistakes parents make when naming guardians of their kids, even if they previously worked with an attorney when preparing their will, trust, or estate plan.
Among the many mistakes I've seen then make over the years, two stand out above the rest.
The first mistake I commonly see parents make when naming guardians for their kids is not getting it in writing. Even if you've taken the time to talk to friends or family members about who you would want as the guardians of your children in the event anything ever happens to you, the fact remains that unless you've taken the time to get it in writing, a judge is going to decide who the guardian of your children will be.
And as we discussed in the last tip, a judge may use criteria that you would not, may appoint someone you would not have wanted, and you could leave your family fighting over guardianship of your children.
The next biggest mistake I see parents make when naming guardians for their children is naming a couple to act as guardian.
You may be thinking, "Why is this a mistake?" It's a mistake if you are not comfortable with the unintended consequences. For example, if you name your sister and her husband as the guardians of you children, you've technically named both of them. In the future, if they were ever to get divorced, you've now left it up to them, their attorneys, and a divorce court to determine custody. If something should happen to your sister, your brother-in-law is now the sole guardian of your kids.
If you would be comfortable with your brother-in-law as the sole guardian of you children, then go ahead and name him. However, if you would not want your brother-in-law as the sole guardian of your children, then you should only name your sister.
If you'd like to learn more about other common mistakes I see parents make when naming guardians and how to avoid those and others, then check out my book, What Happens to Them: what every parents needs to know about estate planning, which you can request on this page.