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You can name a guardian for your child in your will

You may not have a lot of money or many assets, but drawing up a will is important. If you have a minor child, a will can and should address the matter of guardianship.

If you do not designate a guardian and you pass away, the court will appoint one for your child, and it may be someone you never would have chosen.

Considering candidates

Selecting a guardian is a task that requires thinking about pros and cons concerning the possible candidates. You might choose a relative or friend, or even a bank. Much depends on the age of the child and the size of your estate. If your estate is large, think about choosing someone who is good with money matters—someone you can trust to manage the money or property you would leave to your child until he or she reaches the age of majority. If your child is young and very dependent on you, it will probably be more important to select a motherly sort of person or someone you believe represents a good father figure.

You may not want to choose the same person for each responsibility. Keep in mind that there are two types of guardians for minor children: the guardian of the person and the guardian of the estate.

Guardian of the person

This is an individual who will basically be responsible for parenting duties. The guardian of the person will be active in the child’s education and responsible for his or her lifestyle, including values and religious upbringing, and for decisions as to medical and dental care.

Guardian of the estate

The court will require this person to inventory the assets of your estate, their value and location, and report the findings. The guardian will protect and manage the estate assets responsibly and in a conservative manner. He or she will pay debts and expenses involving your child, including the cost of medical care and education. 

Final thoughts

Becoming the guardian for a child is a huge responsibility. You may wish to consult with an attorney to learn more about the duties before you begin making a list of candidates. Be sure you talk to each person on your list and explain what you may be asking them to do before making a final decision.

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