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If you are considering your estate plan and want to make sure that your minor children are taken care of if something should happen to you, you should take great care in appointing a guardian for them.  Here are some general steps you might wish to consider in selecting a guardian:

  • Consider Who is Suitable: Consider who in your life is best equipped and willing to care for your children should something happen to you, whether it be family members, close friends, or others. You will undoubtedly want someone who shares your values, can provide a stable environment, and ideally has a good relationship with your children.
  • Consider A Guardian In Terms Of Potential Sibling Conflict: Choosing a guardian for your child in the event of your absence is a crucial decision that can become particularly complex if there is any potential for sibling conflict. Here are several steps and considerations to help you navigate this delicate process carefully:

1) Assess Compatibility and Stability: Look for a guardian who shares your values and parenting philosophy and has a stable environment. The chosen guardian should be able to provide a nurturing and supportive home, fostering a positive relationship among siblings.

2) Consider the Dynamics: Consider the current relationship between your children and the potential guardian. A guardian who understands and can manage the dynamics between siblings, including any conflict, is crucial. This understanding can mitigate issues and support a harmonious relationship.

3) Discuss with Potential Guardians: Before naming someone in your legal documents, have a conversation with them to make sure they are willing and able to take on this responsibility and to make sure they are aware of the potential for sibling conflict.

4) Communication is Key: Discuss your considerations and decision-making process with potential guardians and, if appropriate, with your children. This transparency can help manage expectations and alleviate potential conflicts.

5) Legal Advice: Consult with an attorney experienced in family law. They can provide valuable guidance on structuring the guardianship to protect your children best and address any concerns regarding sibling conflict. 

6) Seek Professional Guidance: In some cases, engaging a family therapist or counselor may be helpful. They can provide strategies to improve sibling relationships and offer support in discussing sensitive topics like guardianship.

7) Equal Involvement: Ensure the guardian encourages and facilitates equal involvement and opportunities for all siblings. This approach can help prevent feelings of favoritism or neglect, which could exacerbate conflicts.

8) Consider Multiple Guardians: In some cases, appointing different guardians for different children may be in their best interest, especially if there are significant age gaps, special needs, or if the sibling conflict is severe. This option should be carefully considered with the help of legal and psychological advice to ensure it is beneficial for all children involved.

Remember, the goal is to ensure the well-being and happiness of your children in a supportive and loving environment, even in your absence. These steps can help you make a thoughtful and informed decision when choosing a guardian.

  • Consult with an Attorney: It is essential to consult with an estate planning attorney who can help you meet the legal requirements and will draft the necessary documents correctly.
  • Execute a Will: In New Jersey and New York, one of the primary ways to name a guardian for your children is in your will. The appointed guardian will have the legal authority to care for your children if you and the other parent (if there is one) cannot do so.
  • Consider Financial Arrangements: If you are setting up an estate plan, consider how you will financially provide for your children. You can set up a trust or purchase life insurance with the guardian or a trust as the beneficiary.
  • Alternate Guardians: Parents should name a second guardian in their wills. This person can fulfill the role of guardian if the designated guardian cannot or is unwilling to do so. A few reasons for the inability to raise the child could include death or incapacitation.
  • Guardianship Limitation: Naming a guardian in your will can provide clear evidence of your wishes, but a court will still need to confirm the appointment. The court always has the children’s best interests in mind. If there is a reason the named guardian is not deemed suitable at the time, the court may choose someone else.
  • Keep Documents Updated: As time goes on and circumstances change, your choice of guardian might also change. Reviewing and updating your estate planning documents every few years or whenever there’s a significant life event is a good idea.
  • Safe Storage and Copies: Store the original will and any related estate planning documents in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe or a safe deposit box. It is also wise to provide copies to trusted individuals, such as your attorney, the named guardian, or other trusted family members.
  • Consider a Temporary Guardian: If there is a concern about a delay in the permanent guardian taking over (for instance, if they live far away), you could also consider legally naming a temporary guardian. This person can care for your children until the permanent guardian can take over.

Takeaway

This information might only cover some individual situations. You should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney in New Jersey to help guide you through this process and ensure that your children are taken care of, especially in reducing the potential conflicts between siblings.  You also want to ensure that the legal requirements are met.  Contact Bozanian McGregor to help you with your estate planning and guardianship needs to ensure that your children are adequately protected if something unexpectedly happens to you.