When our first child was a baby, Chris and I met with an attorney to draft a will. Although this was a new parent task we did not look forward to with the same zeal as others, the result is a living trust that grows with our family and assets, and is something we now do not have to think about. That peace of mind is priceless.
Seth Price, the managing partner of Price Benowitz LLP (and a local father of three beautiful kids and a lovely wife whom I have had the pleasure of meeting) contacted me about sharing his firm’s expertise with estates and trusts with local families. I knew this was a resource that could assist readers. Read on for insights and advice on selecting guardianship from Kerri M. Castellini, the trusts and estates partner at Price Benowitz.
Additionally, the first 20 readers of A Parent in Silver Spring who contact Price Benowitz about their estate planning needs will receive a free one hour consultation (a $400 value.)
Choosing a Guardian for Your Child
by Kerri M. Castellini, Esq.
The most difficult question I field from my clients is ‘Who should be guardians of our minor child if we both die?” Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. The truth is, there isn’t a right answer, and there certainly isn’t an easy answer. The answer to this question keeps parents up at night, and even leads them to booking separate flights when they go on family vacations. I watch couples squirm, hem, shrug their shoulders, wince and struggle for words when we get to this part of our initial meeting. Even worse, couples delay creating their estate plan, because this conversation is too unpleasant for them.
Although there is no right answer, the wrong answer is not doing anything at all. So how do you begin to make this decision? There are a few things to consider that may assist you with the conversation:
• Do you want your children to remain in your house? If so, we can help ensure that those provisions are included in your estate plan. In addition, we can work together with your financial planner to provide for the liquidity to maintain your house until your children are grown.
• Do you think you have to name one or both set of your parents to act? Your parents can often be a great choice as a starting point to choosing guardians. However, it is important to consider their age and where they reside. If your parents aren’t the best fit, you may also want to consider siblings who are prepared to welcome your children into their household. For some clients, neither their parents nor their siblings are the best fit. Our generation often moves away from their hometowns for education and careers. Your friends may actually live closer to you, share similar beliefs and lifestyles, and have move interaction with your children. Don’t be afraid to look outside of your family, and include friends in your pool of potential guardians.
• When naming a couple to serve as guardians, consider whether you would want them to continue to serve together in the event of their divorce. Would you prefer one to serve over the other? What if one of the guardians passes away? Would you want the other guardian to continue to serve?
• When deciding on a guardian, consider whether your guardian shares your religious, standard of living, parenting style and education beliefs.
The good news is that by thinking about all of your options, you may soon realize that there are many great people in your family support system that could serve as amazing guardians to your children. A well thought out and crafted estate plan is the best way to prepare your family for the future. Although nothing can prepare your children for your loss, speaking with your guardians about your parenting style, wishes for your children, and your beliefs will help make their transition easier.
Remember, your decision isn’t final. Your documents can be revised during lifetime while you retain the required capacity to make changes. As your children grow and change, so may your choice of guardians. So start talking so you can start sleeping, even if it is only for a few hours until the baby monitor goes off.
Kerri M. Castellini, Esquire has dedicated her career to practicing estates and trusts. She advises clients in Maryland and the District of Columbia, and is the estates and trusts partner at Price Benowitz LLP. More information regarding her practice and her contact information can be found at www.trustandestateslawyers.com.