Often times we are asked about the fate of minor children if a catastrophic event took the lives of both parents. Understandably so, parents are concerned about who will raise their young children and what type of upbringing they will receive. Thus, a Guardianship Declaration for Minor Children is a critical estate planning document in Texas.
But How Do You Choose a Guardian?
When choosing a guardian, it’s important to consider both your child’s experience and your family’s values. Moving to an entirely new city or changing schools might be intensely stressful for a child, especially after losing their parents. Choosing someone who lives near you or would be willing to relocate would be ideal. Also, consider the values that are important to you and who you think would best be able to offer a family environment similar to yours. In Texas, the judge will look at what is in the “best interest of the child” when determining guardianship.
Many people choose family members to serve as their child’s guardian, such as an aunt or uncle, grandparent, or cousin that’s already close to their child. However, not everyone has a viable option within their family for a variety of reasons. For example, maybe the grandparents aren’t able to take on the responsibility of raising a young child due to age or health conditions. It could also be that a sibling has their hands full with their own minor children and would not be able to add to their family.
If appointing a guardian from within the family is not feasible, choosing a family friend can be a great alternative. Once you’ve thought of some potential candidates, sit down and talk with them about serving as your child’s guardian. It’s a tremendous responsibility, so you want to give the person a chance to say no if they truly feel unable to take it on.
You’ll also want to name a second or third choice for guardianship, in the event that your first choice was unable to serve. In addition, a probate judge does have the authority to declare a guardian unfit, so make sure you choose someone without a problematic legal history.
Providing Guidance to your Child’s Guardian
We encourage clients to write a letter to the guardian of their children. In the letter, parents can write how they want their children to be raised, what kind of school they want them to go to, and what religious beliefs or values they would like instilled in their children. It is imperative to “speak from the heart” and convey to the guardian anything important to the parents. This step is purely optional, but most people find comfort in knowing that they are able to convey their thoughts and wishes to their loved ones.
Should the Children Stay Together?
Although most parents name one guardian for all their children, you can absolutely name different guardians for each child. You may want to do this if you have a large number of children, or if you have children with special needs. It is entirely up to you and depends upon your unique circumstances.
Should you Name a Couple or an Individual?
You can name a married couple as co-guardians or an individual person. If you name a married couple as the guardian of your children, they are referred to as “co-guardians.” If you designate a married couple as co-guardians, it’s imperative to consider what you want to happen if one member of the couple (husband or wife) can no longer serve – either because of death or divorce. For example, if you name your sister and her husband as co-guardians, but would not want to name your sister’s husband the sole guardian if your sister dies, then you should be careful when designating a guardian or potential co-guardian for your children.
If you are a Texas resident and have not yet created an estate plan with a declaration for minor children, please contact the Kazi Law Firm today and let us help protect your family’s future.