As a parent, the care and wellbeing of your child or children is a priority and, as unpleasant as it is to think about, this extends to their care in the event of your or their other parent’s death. This means that naming a good legal guardian is essential, says New Jersey estate planning attorney Frank Campisano – but what exactly does this mean?
Firstly, if you don’t name a legal guardian in your Last Will and Testament, the courts of the State of New Jersey will appoint custody to someone of their choosing. There is no guarantee at all that your child will go to a family member or loved one of your preference, so it’s vitally important that this decision is kept in your hands rather than in those of the court’s.
Secondly, the surviving parent has a right to custody of children if the other parent dies, something that is not always a desirable situation. With the right legal advice, you will be able to plan ahead and nominate the best possible guardian for your child.
Here is some more information on choosing a legal guardian:
- Legal guardianship applies to children under the age of 18 years old and your chosen guardian must be properly named in your Will in order to claim custody.
- It’s best if you and the other parent name the same guardian in both your Wills in order to avoid legal complications.
- Ensure that you also name a back-up guardian in the event that your first choice is unable to take on the responsibility.
- Remember to specify each individual child under 18 by name in your Will when assigning guardianship, or the court is free to choose guardians for any unnamed children.
- Specify if you would like your children to live together.
- You can name co-guardians in your Will, for example, by giving guardianship to a couple rather than an individual.
- If you are able, it’s a good idea to include financial planning in your Will to assist your children’s guardian in the event that they take on custody of your child.
- Remember to involve your chosen guardian or guardians in this process. They should be fully informed of your decision and happy to take on this important role.
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Frank Campisano has over 30 years of experience in New Jersey estate planning law. We can assist you in creating a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney and medical directives as well as set up trusts appropriate to your specific needs. Contact Frank today, for expert estate planning advice.