This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.
A Merrimack, New Hampshire estate planning clients asked about the selection of a guardian in their wills. Appointing a guardian for minor children can be a challenging decision. The following information can be useful in the decision making process.
First, in New Hampshire, a guardian is responsible for the daily personal care of minor children if both of their parents have died. Guardians are authorized to make decisions involving living arrangements, education, and medical care, among other things. Careful consideration should be given to selecting someone who cares about your children and who can provide them with a stable home life. Grandparents may be a good choice. However, because of possible health challenges and even generational differences, a backup guardian should always be selected. Siblings and close family friends can also be good options, depending on their own circumstances and location, as well as your (and their) children’s ages and relationships.
You may have concerns about a potential guardian’s fiscal responsibility. To alleviate financial pressures, parents should leave their children an inheritance (either from assets accumulated during life or from a life insurance policy) through a trust. While you can name the same person as guardian and trustee, they require different skill sets, and one person may not be a good fit for both roles.
You may also have concerns about a potential guardian’s limited financial resources. For example, it is not uncommon and can be advisable to utilize trust funds to pay for an expansion of a guardian’s home or to purchase a larger home to accommodate a guardian’s family as well as your own.
Preferences regarding any child-rearing philosophy regarding matters such as religion, education or extracurricular activities can be memorialized in the form of written instructions (usually a non-binding memorandum) to guide your guardian. If you do create written guidance, keep it broad and discretionary if possible.
Be sure to revisit guardianship questions periodically since the best choice for your child as a newborn is not necessarily the best choice during their teen age years. You may have to amend your will and trust to revise both your guardian selections and the trust asset management portion of the trust document. Fortunately, Wills and Trusts are easy to amend during a person’s life.
You may contact Attorney John S. Polgrean for a consultation. Though this question was posed by our client in Merrimack, NH, our experienced family law team at Welts, White & Fontaine, P.C. is here to answer all of your divorce questions. We cover Nashua and most of New Hampshire. Call us today to schedule your free half hour consultation.