Choices When Making an Estate Plan: Part Two

Written by Jim Worthington on February 24, 2019

This article continues a four-part series on the choices you must make to complete a comprehensive estate plan. For those, who can’t wait that long, the website includes all of this information in a white paper

The previous article addressed planning for disability. This article covers a tough decision all parents must make. Because of its importance, this is the only topic for this article.

Who Will be Your Minor Childrens’ Guardian? 

The guardian is the person that you nominate to take care of your children if you die. If your child’s other parent survives you, he or she will generally be the guardian. So, what you’re more likely planning for is if something happens to both parents.

Although you nominate the guardian, the court appoints the guardian. If your child is 14 or over, Kentucky law requires the judge to ask your child about his or her preference. However, the court usually follows your choice.  

The guardian does all the things that a parent does, including staying up at night with a sick child, celebrating successes, and helping a child become a mature adult. Because other provisions of your estate plan will be designed to ensure that enough money is available to care for your children, the guardian does not have to be someone with a lot of money. But, the guardian will be part of the team teaching your children about money so the guardian’s financial skills are important.

Before ending this article, some general concepts will be useful.

Common Themes

It is usually better to name one person to fill each of the positions in an estate plan rather than to name two or more people to the same position. In other words, I do not recommend co-guardians. These difficult decisions are not well-suited for decision by a committee. Naming one person does not mean he or she can’t get input from others in your family.  

In fact, many people find themselves naming the same person to many or all of the roles. This should not be a concern because one thing that families do for each other is to take care of each other during difficult times. Any concern about overloading someone can be reduced by attention to the next step. 

It is best to ask a person about filling the role before naming him or her. Along the same lines, you should not be concerned that naming one person will hurt an omitted person’s feelings. If the omitted person is not up to the task, you would not be doing him, her, yourself, or anyone in your family a favor by giving that person a task beyond his or her abilities. 

I hope this discussion helps start you thinking about the important decisions when making your estate plan. It is not meant as legal advice for your specific situation but as a starting point for a live conversation as part of your legal representation.