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Don't forget about guardianship

After your first child was born you came home from the hospital, took a nap, then went straight into planning for your family's future. You finished the will, signed the insurance papers, and the college fund is growing, but there's an oft-overlooked step that's almost as important to your children as you are.

Who, in case of tragedy, will take over their guardianship?

Nobody wants to think about somebody else raising their children, but part of taking care of your kids is having a plan in line for every scenario. If something happens to you and your spouse, custody of your children isn't something you want probate court to decide. You want somebody who will follow your parental wishes and instill the same values.

Without explicitly naming a guardian, in a parent's death the other parent takes custody. However, if something happens to both of you, the process is less certain. Probate typically falls to a close relative, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or stepparents depending on conditions. Yet this takes time and your family hangs in the balance of a judge's decision.

The purpose of estate planning is to skip the confusion and drama. And, worse yet, an ill decision can put your kids under a guardian you wouldn't approve. In fact, most advise naming two guardians in case something happens to the guardians you choose, such a divorce, car accident, or other life-impacting event.

While your young children light your days today, it's important to prepare for all the unexpected turns of tomorrow.

Naming a guardian can be done in your will, so with that step already taken care of you'll want to add an addendum. As with your will, the guardian you name can be changed at any time.

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