If you have minor children, there is one key element you must absolutely include in your estate plan: your choice of legal guardian. In the event that you become incapacitated or pass away, your chosen guardian will assume the care of your children and provide them with a stable home. Naming a guardian prevents them from going into state care, so you can still have a say in your kids’ future even after you are no longer able to care for them.
Aside from being entrusted with the care of your child, your named guardian will also receive a number of guardianship rights. They will be able to enroll your minor child in school, receive state benefits when the child lives in their home, and authorize the use of things like medical treatment, day care, and food stamps for your child.
Naming a legal guardian for your children can be tricky. When the time comes to name them in your estate plan, try to avoid these common mistakes.
1) Only naming one guardian
Even if you have the perfect guardian in mind, it’s safer to name a “backup” guardian. You never know what could happen in the future, people can relocate, have more children of their own, or pass away. The first choice may not work out. Be careful and pick a “backup.”
2) Limiting your choices
When choosing a legal guardian, you may be more inclined to limit your pool of choices to family members. You may feel that your kids will have a stronger connection, or have more stability, in the company of blood relatives. While this may be the case for you, don’t rule out your longtime established friends and close friends of the family. It’s always possible that your friends are better able to provide for your children and share more of your parenting values.
3 Failing to name a short-term guardian
If your top choices live out-of-state or in another city, they may need time to arrange travel to pick up your children. You probably don’t want your kids to go into state care in the meantime. To avoid that eventuality, name a short-term guardian who lives close enough to watch your kids until their long-term guardians arrive.
4) Neglecting to leave instructions
If you want to ensure that your chosen guardian honors your parenting wishes, you can leave a set of detailed instructions for the care of your kids. Write down your preferences for their schooling, their religion, their nutritional needs, and anything else you feel is important. While you can’t legally guarantee the outcome, you can still have some peace of mind knowing that your child’s guardian understands your wishes.
Parenting is difficult enough when you’re around, so it’s natural to worry about how your kids will fare after you’re gone. At Bedlam Law, we understand the challenges families commonly face in the Oklahoma estate planning process, and we are prepared to offer you our professional guidance. Contact our wise and caring lawyers for support throughout the guardianship process.