18 Apr

Guardianship is a critical piece of an estate plan if you have minor children – that is, under the age of 18. Under Massachusetts law, young people under age 18 are unable to make legal decisions for themselves, so they need an adult to do it for them. This person is known as the child’s guardian. As a parent, you are your child’s natural guardian. But if something happened to you, who would make decisions for your child?

We can separate guardianship into three different buckets: 

  1. Long Term Guardians: who you would want to raise your children until they become legal adults; 
  2. Short Term Guardians: who you would want to show up in an emergency to prevent your children from entering the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) custody; and, 
  3. Excluded Individuals: who you absolutely would not want to raise your children.

Today I want to focus on Long Term Guardians.

Many parents have given thought to Long Term Guardians before. It’s not an easy decision and there are many complicating factors. It’s common for partners to disagree on who should raise their children. Some clients hate the idea of putting one choice ahead of another, lest they hurt someone’s feelings should they find out that they have not been chosen. Some clients feel like they have nobody.

I always remind my clients that there is no perfect choice because this is Plan B: we’re creating a plan for their family to use only in the event that something goes terribly wrong. With that in mind, the aim should not be the “perfect” choice, but rather one that is informed and thoughtful. Failing to legally document Long Term Guardians means that a probate court judge makes the final guardianship determination without knowledge of the parents' wishes. 

If you haven’t yet created the necessary legal documents to nominate Long Term Guardians for your minor children, or if your current nomination needs to be reviewed and updated, please contact Mulhall Withrow to help. Your family is your most precious asset – invest in them.