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Dear Liz: When you create a will and appoint someone to be the guardian of your children, must that person be present to sign legal documents accepting the job? And can that person later change his or her mind?

Answer: The person you name to be the guardian of your children does not have to be present when you create your will or other estate-planning documents.

But you better make darn sure that you have the potential guardian’s willing consent.

Taking care of someone else’s children is a huge responsibility, and not one that should be taken, or given, lightly. You’ll want to have a full and frank discussion with this person in advance, including what financial arrangements you’re making to take care of your children should you die while they’re minors.

Even if the person consents, understand that nothing is written in stone. Should you die, the person still could change his or her mind and decline the job. That is one of the reasons why you’ll want to name at least one back-up person in case your first choice can’t or won’t serve.

Also, many attorneys would advise you to name one partner in a couple as primary guardian, rather than both parties. If the couple later splits up or one dies, you don’t want any confusion about who you wanted to take care of your kids.

As difficult as these discussions and choices can be, you should make the effort. If you don’t name a guardian, they could wind up at the center of a bitter court battle, or in foster care. Your kids deserve better.

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Categories : Estate planning, Q&A

2 Comments

1

This might be a topic you’d revisit every few years with your designated guardians. We all know how life situations can change.

2

Amen to that. Also, as kids get older, it may be more important to keep them in the same neighborhood/city than to force them to move, even if that means making some compromises about who you choose to be their guardian.