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Young Children & Estate Planning – Naming a Legal Guardian

Today, Your Legal Corner will discuss "Young children and estate planning.”

Just as the birth of a child is one of the best reasons to create a will, the death of the child’s parents is another. It is not a pleasant thought to think of both parents passing at the same time. However, it is a very real circumstance that should be addressed when you have minor children.

Did you know if you and your spouse die at the same time, without a will, whoever is appointed as administrator of the estate designates the person to manage your child’s inheritance? Additionally, the administrator will provide the information as to who will care for your child through a proceeding known as a legal guardianship.

There are two types of guardianships to consider: guardianship of the property and guardianship of the person. You may choose one person to serve as both, a couple to serve jointly or a different person for each.

Legal Guardian

A Guardian of the Property is granted the power to make all financial decisions regarding the child. When there is more than one child, the same guardian may serve for all. Alternatively, in blended families, second marriages or other special circumstances, discuss with your attorney the possibility of separate guardianships for each child.

A Guardian of the Person is granted the authority to decide day to day decisions concerning the care of the child. Issues typically addressed include where the child will reside, attend school, activities the child will participate in, healthcare and overall day to day living.

When naming a guardian in your will, you are able to elect the person or persons that you wish to serve as guardian in the event both of you die. A guardian who is appointed through a will does not have to normally endure a court proceeding. Usually, only the signature of the guardian is required for the County Surrogate Office.

Selection of a Legal Guardian

Discuss with your spouse who should be the legal guardian for your child or children. The following factors should guide your discussions. The named legal guardian is over age 18 and committed to serve. The legal guardian also shares the family’s values and has an existing positive relationship with your child or children.

Further, keep a journal of your child’s likes and dislikes. If your child requires special care, notes as to doctors, facilities, friends, programs and specifically what is needed in order to maintain some form of continuity should be documented.

Remember, plan who will care for your child when you are not able to. Consult with an attorney for added peace of mind.

Till next week, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss "Helping others as an organ donor."

Victoria M. Dalton is an attorney with the law firm of Hoffman DiMuzio.

For questions contact Victoria at and be sure to Like us on Facebook!

Please note: Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational articles about the law and is not legal advice!

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