When my husband and I sat down to write our trust, it was smooth sailing, until we discussed who the guardian of our children would be should we both die. I assumed it would be someone in my family. Unfortunately, he thought the same thing. This issue caused a bit of conflict and we decided to table the discussion for a bit. That was 6 months ago. When I speak at seminars or to friends, it seems this issue causes many people trouble. People chose not to get a trust because they do not want to hurt their spouses feelings or argue over who would be guardian. This is misplaced fear. Avoiding the conversation today leaves the decision up to the court. The court does not know that your child connects with his aunt, but not as much with his uncle. The court does not know that grandma and grandpa are great, but they are getting older and could not keep up with the daily schedule of your children. I have the utmost respect for our judicial system, but choosing my children’s guardian is NOT a decision I want the court to make.
A trust not only allows you to choose a permanent guardian for your child, but a temporary guardian as well. This may be necessary if the permanent guardian does not live near you. I live in California, but my entire extended family resides in a different state. The reality is that my children would need a temporary guardian until arrangements could be made to move them out of state.
If your estate enters probate, it could be a year before the guardians have access to your finances. This would require the person petitioning for guardianship to pay for the expense of appointment along with the expenses for your children. This is a huge and unnecessary burden.
This is not an easy conversation to have with our spouse. It is not easy to pick someone else to raise your children should you die. When I think of this issue, I think of the movie Raising Helen and this line. “When it comes to picking somebody else to raise your kids, no one seems right. No one is you. And so you choose someone who is most like you.” Do not leave it up to the court to decide “who is most like you.” Protect your children and get a trust.
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