For many parents, this is one of the most carefully considered and sometimes emotional decisions to be made, says Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “3 Key Things to Consider Before Agreeing to Be a Guardian in a Trust.” Therefore, if you are asked to be named a guardian in a family’s estate documents, here are some things to consider:
First, if the parents were to die, determine if there are enough assets to be able to raise the children to adulthood, or if you’d be expected to be able to pay for their needs. You should also see if the parents have life insurance that they’re expecting to provide the needed money. Ask about other assets that would be available to care for the children and if there are college savings funds already started for them. Therefore, even if you’re okay with taking on the physical and emotional care of the children, you need to know if you will also be providing financial care for them.
Next, ask about any legal arrangements. See if there’s a family trust, and if so, find out who the successor trustee is of the trust. Discover the terms of the trust related to uses of the assets. While the most common revocable living trusts allow for the “health, education, maintenance and support” of the beneficiaries, there can be age conditions for the funds, or certain funds may only be available after life milestones, like education or marriage are met.
Next, understanding how the parents hope their children will be raised is important for a guardian to know. This includes things like whether the parents expect that their children will still be living in the same community or even the same home as they are now, as well as the same school and the same religious institutions.
Finally, ask about hobbies and activities, and if any of these types of lifestyle expectations would create issues for the guardian, it’s best to discuss what the parents are willing to modify. If that’s not possible, you can say no to being the guardian.
Reference: Kiplinger (Nov. 17, 2022) “3 Key Things to Consider Before Agreeing to Be a Guardian in a Trust”