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Have You Appointed Guardians For Your Minor Children?

Being a parent is full of surprises and requires constant judgment calls and adaptation. Try as you might to cover all the bases, ultimately you need to choose the people whom you really trust to do the right thing, and hope for the best.

What if something happens to you today, tomorrow, next week ... what if you are no longer here for your children? Who will take care of them?

Without proper estate planning, a court would appoint a guardian for your minor children. It's important and much wiser to come to your own decision about this essential issue and formalize it in a proper legal document. Note: Depending on the state in which you are a resident, this appointment may be made through a will, a living trust or another state-specific legal document. Accordingly, you must consult a competent estate planning attorney to make sure this appointment is made through the proper legal means.

Bottom line: naming a guardian to care for your children (as opposed to his or her property) is something you must do.

Being a child's guardian is a big responsibility. You should choose at least two people, in the event your first choice is unavailable. Some people look to relatives, starting with their own siblings. If these siblings have children of their own, your children would be raised with their first cousins. Parent, if young enough, can be a second choice for some people, and in some instances, older siblings sometimes serve as guardians for younger ones.

As noted in a recent Forbes article, titled "Advice For New Mothers -- And Procrastinators," every family and every situation is different. Even if certain family members seem like natural choices, look at all of the factors involved. These factors include the location, lifestyle, and values of the person you're thinking of choosing. Also, consider whether your potential guardians would be able to incorporate your children into their households.

The Forbes article admits that few parents find someone who meets all their criteria, and oftentimes it's a process of elimination or simply deciding which qualities are most important. And it's best if couples agree on the same guardians. Each of their wills should appoint the same persons.

Have heart-to-heart discussions now with those who you would appoint to serve as guardians later. Talk over your goals and theories of parenting in as much detail as you like. When you have made your decision, get with your estate planning attorney and execute the appropriate legal documents to make it all happen, if needed.

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