Guardian Choice Paralysis: A Natural Response, But a Potentially Costly One

Parents and kid lying on garden with hands together

For many of my estate planning clients, deciding who they should/could name as a potential Guardian for their children is a topic we obviously spend quite a bit of time discussing.

If called upon to serve, the ideal Guardian will become your children’s surrogate adult role model:

  1. Providing supervision, encouragement and discipline as needed.
  2. Weighing in on your children’s social, educational, and potentially, career choices.
  3. Acting as a safety net if your children slightly veer off course.
  4. Recommending religious choices and family visitation opportunities.
  5. And generally supporting your children on the road to becoming independent adults.

The reason many parents shy away from discussions about a Guardian, or delay drafting a Will,  is the intensely personal nature of the decision(s) and the absolutely understandable fear of the “What if(s)”.

Wait and Hope for the Best Approach:

A natural response, but a potentially costly one.

It is heart wrenching to imagine a world where a child looses his/her parent. It is even worse if that child and the Courts have no idea who “CAN AND SHOULD” be appointed as Guardian (temporary and permanent) for your minor children.

Without a Will you are leaving the door open to some of those “What if(s)” you were worried about all along but could have easily addressed with some simple legal drafting.

  1. The Court, with no instructions from you, may choose someone outside Oregon pulling your children from their school, their friends, perhaps local family and the only home they have ever known.
  2. The worst possible scenario: your children are placed with a reluctant or unsuitable family member. Remember, there is a significant difference between someone who “Can” be Guardian versus “Should” be Guardian.
  3. Family members you never even thought of may choose to contest the Court’s decision.

When planning for your loved ones, it’s best not to take any chances.

Draft away the “What if (s)”.  Make the Can and Should be the person(s) of YOUR choosing.

Seeking the expertise of an attorney is recommended for everyone.  An attorney can draft your Will according to your specific objectives, explain estate-tax laws and exemptions, designate your beneficiaries and offer advice – all in your children’s best interest. You’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your “What if(s)” are addressed and people appointed Can and Should be your children’s Guardian(s).

About Michelle-Shari Kruss

Michelle-Shari Kruss J.D. (Krusslaw, a boutique Lake Oswego law firm), has more than 18 years of legal-experience. Michelle-Shari is a well-known estate planning attorney helping parents protect their most precious asset: their children. She is a past Juvenile Peer Court Judge, author, frequent guest lecturer, sits on a variety of non-profit boards and is the parent of two lovely children.

Michelle-Shari's objective is to develop lifelong relationships with her clients, not short-term engagements. It is her goal and the goal of her firm to make the estate planning process as easy, comfortable and enjoyable as possible. The most important qualities she brings to the creation of her client's documents–besides all the education, training, experience and knowledge—is being a good listener, explaining the myriad of concepts and terminology in simple and straightforward language and preparing personalized Wills that reflect each family's individual wishes and goals.