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Appointing guardians for minor children

California parents should think about making provisions for the care of their minor children. Even for parents who are young and healthy, legal documentation about guardianship is important. While it may be a difficult subject to think about, it can ultimately lead to peace of mind.

If something happens to a child's parents, the court will appoint a guardian if no one is named in the parents' wills. A guardian must be named in a will and not as part of a trust. Parents should look to their own family and closest friends and discuss the decision with them ahead of time.

It is important to consider lifestyle as well. Will the people they are considering choosing be able to add more children to their household? Are they raising their children in ways that are in line with the way parents would like their own children to be raised? How much will moving in with the new family disrupt children's lives? For example, moving far away from all that is familiar may be difficult for some children.

Another thing parents should keep in mind is whether they want the children's guardian to also manage any assets they leave behind. Again, the court will appoint someone if parents do not. However, they can specify in their wills a testamentary trust to be created upon their death for their assets that they wish to pass to their children. They can also specify when and under what circumstances they want their children to receive those assets. Parents may also want to write a letter or leave other instructions about their wishes in how their children will be raised although it is important to leave guardians some leeway as well.

Source: Forbes, "Advice For New Mothers -- And Procrastinators", Deborah L. Jacobs, May 09, 2014

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