Your Hawaii Estate Planning Should Include Choosing a Guardian For Your Minor Child
One of the most important, if not THE most important thing a parent should do in the area of estate planning is name a guardian for a minor child. In fact, this is often the underlying cause that pushes parents to get started with estate planning in the first place.
Create a Will
If both you and your spouse die without a will, a court will appoint a guardian to take custody of your child. This person may be someone that neither you nor your spouse would approve of if given the chance. The great news is that you do have a chance and that chance is bestowed upon you if create a will.
Nominate a Guardian in Your Will
In your will you can nominate a guardian. Generally, a court gives great deference to your choice of guardian as expressed in your will. The court realizes that you are better suited to know your child's needs and know who best to be able to provide an appropriate home. The court will typically approve your choice of guardian as long as there isn't a good reason not to do so.
Name a Guardian Outside of Your Will Too
You should also have a separate document that names your choice of long-term guardian as it might take a while to locate your will. This document should be readily available in case of emergencies. Additionally, you should name a short-term guardian so your child won't end up with strangers while your long-term guardians are located and while they're on their way to your children.
The Law Office of Keoni Souza provides a Kids Protection Plan at no additional charge with every plan we create for families with minor children that includes all the legal documents and instructions to ensure your children don't end up in foster care (for even a minute) or with someone you'd never want to raise your children.
The Role of Guardian
The role of guardian is a huge responsibility so deciding who should be chosen should not be taken lightly. The guardian steps into your shoes and is essentially a substitute parent. The guardian is responsible to care for your child until the age of 18 and has the authority to decide on generally all matters related to raising your child including health care, education, religion, etc. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether the guardian shares your values.
Selecting a Guardian with an Existing Close Relationship
It is a good idea to choose someone that your family has an existing close relationship with. This could be a family member or a close friend. An existing close relationship will help your child feel more comfortable living with the substitute family and help the substitute family feel more comfortable with having a new addition.
Consider the Age of the Guardian
When choosing a guardian be mindful of age. Sometimes grandparents seem like the natural choice. After all, they did raise you and look how great you turned out. However, really consider whether grandparents can handle the rigors of raising a young child or teenager. Additionally, it is possible that grandparents might not live long enough to see your child to his 18th birthday, thereby forcing the child to have to adjust to living with yet another family.
A Guardian is Responsible for Personal Care Instead of Financial Care
It is important to differentiate between personal care and financial care. A guardian is responsible for the former, but not responsible for the latter. In fact, the cost to care for your child is a reimbursable expense. Expenses can be reimbursed from your child's inheritance. So it is not enough to simply choose the wealthiest family you know. Granted, the guardian might not seek reimbursement, but it is wise to plan for it.
The Bottom Line: Select a Guardian for Your Minor Children when Creating Your Estate Plan in Hawaii
The choice of guardian is an important decision and should be given a great deal of thought. However, it is not a good idea to put off planning simply because you can't settle on who to choose. Imagine if you were to become deceased next week, your child will be in a far better position with someone you chose that you thought could do a decent job of raising your child, but was not 100% sure about, rather than not choosing anyone at all. The fact that you'd even consider this person speaks volumes. Just remember, selecting someone today does not mean you can't change your mind and choose someone else later. You have the power to choose and can do so as many times as you like. Exercise this power before it is too late. You'll be happy that you did.
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This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
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