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Q: Who will get my children if I die?

Most people would probably guess that the most popular reason people delay or avoid seeing a New York and New Jersey estate planning attorney to draw up a last will and testament is that many people don’t like to think about their own mortality. Some people avoid it because they mistakenly believe that an estate plan is unaffordable.

For people with minor children, it’s imperative that they overcome any obstacles though. For them, designating the person or persons who will act as legal guardians for their minor children if they die before the children reach of age may be the most important reasons to have a will.

Many parents are not aware that legal guardians are designated in a will. Others may be aware, but are unable to agree upon who they should designate. Should they choose one side of the family or the other side – or maybe very close friends instead? Understandably, discussions can become heated and tabled for a later date. Sound familiar?

It’s common to wrongly assume that your children will end up where you would have wanted them to be. But the reality is that if you die without a will, your family doesn’t get to decide who will raise their children – a judge that you never met will make that decision.

Factors to consider when appointing legal guardians

If you’re having difficulty deciding who to appoint as legal guardians, these are some factors to consider:

  • avoid uprooting, if possible, by choosing a guardian that could keep the children in their current home, school, and community
  • consider the guardian’s age, avoiding older grandparents who may themselves die or become disabled before the children are grown
  • choose guardians who share the same values and beliefs
  • if needed, give physical custody and financial custody two different people
  • choose people that already have a good relationship and frequent interaction with your children
  • choose the best person or couple whether they are family or not
  • choose a second individual or couple as successor guardians in the event your first choice dies or becomes unable or unwilling to serve
  • choose people who are willing to take on the responsibility of raising your children and ask them if they are willing and up to the task

Contact Merlino & Gonzalez for your estate-planning needs

Stop waiting for “someday” and take care of your estate plan today. If you need help with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and estate administration.