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How to choose a guardian for minor children when estate planning

Parents or those caring for minor dependents have many difficult decisions to make that will affect their children's future. Among these are clarifying who should care for minor children should something happen to the parents. It is important that parents carefully consider this decision, as well as understand the Delaware law standards related to estate planning and guardianship.

When evaluating potential guardians, estate planning parents should ask some serious questions of themselves and their potential guardians. First, they should be clear that the prospective guardian is willing and able to care for the children. Parenting style, values and finances are all worth considering before finalizing this decision. It is also a good idea to make sure that the guardian's children, if they have any, will not have problems should new children enter the home.

It is also important for parents to name a backup guardian. Should a chosen guardian be unable or unwilling to take the children, a backup guardian will ensure they are still with someone the parents trust. Additionally, an estate plan should list the names of anyone who a parent does not want raising their children, as Delaware courts could otherwise send the children to a relative who the parents do not approve of raising the children.

Along with naming guardians, its a good idea for estate planning parents to prepare a letter explaining why the appointee is a good choice to care for the children. This will help if the issue reaches a Delaware court, which is obligated to do what it rules is in the best interest of the children. Understanding estate planning and family law is critical to this process, so contacting a lawyer with experience in estate planning early on is a good idea.

Source: Delaware Business Times, "Choosing Your Child's Guardian", Joe Giordano, Feb. 9, 2018

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