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What to think about when naming a guardian for your children

Taking care of your children is often the primary goal for parents when it comes to estate planning. Often, parents want to set aside money or property for their children, or provide critical direction when it comes to long-term and end-of-life care. 

Estate planning protects your children in other ways, too. For instance, naming a guardian for your minor children can ensure they have someone you trust and love to take care of them if you cannot. Below are some suggestions for selecting a guardian and how to legally protect these wishes.

What does a guardian do?

Backing up, we should explain that a guardian is someone with the right and authority to make decisions for a juvenile. This can include decisions about medical care, education, living situations and finances.

When parents pass away or become incapacitated, the courts appoint a guardian. Without guidance from parents on whom to select as a guardian, Tennessee courts follow the order of appointment established in guardianship statutes.

So, to retain more control over the appointment, parents can specify their desired candidate in an estate plan.

Traits of a good guardian candidate

Because of all the responsibilities that guardians take on, you might consider someone who:

  • You trust
  • Your children already know
  • Is familiar with your ideals as a parent
  • Has the same or similar beliefs that you have
  • Has adequate resources to take in a child
  • Is willing to take on the position
  • Can provide a loving, safe environment for your child
  • Understands the legal, financial and emotional stakes of the situation

A guardian need not have all these traits to be a good care provider, but he or she should fill many of these and similar qualifications.

Protecting your wishes

Once you know who you want to name as a guardian for your child, you should protect your wishes in your estate plan. You can appoint a guardian, explain your reasoning (if necessary) and set aside any money or property you wish to leave to that person.

Taking these steps can give you and your children peace of mind in knowing that they will be cared for should something happen to you.

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