It is generally recommended that you write a letter explaining the choice of guardian for your minor
children and attach it to your last will. There are several reasons for writing this type of letter. First, if the issue of guardianship goes to court, a letter from you explaining your reasons for choosing a particular person as guardian could be very persuasive. There are also other reasons for writing a letter about your choice of guardian.
If you have a relative or close friend who would like to serve as guardian of your children, but you named someone else as guardian in your will, it may be difficult for that person to understand why he or she was not chosen. The hurt feelings and resentment from this type of perceived rejection can last a lifetime, especially if the person felt he or she was the obvious choice.If you want to avoid your friend or relative feeling hurt or showing resentment toward the person you choose as guardian, you may want to write a letter explaining your decision. A letter explaining the choice of guardian may also help diffuse harsh feelings that might otherwise result in a legal dispute. See Will and Trust Disputes.This type of letter should be stored with your will and other estate planning documents. Make sure the letter can be easily located by your executor or agent in the event of your incapacity or death. If you do not want your child's biological parent or stepparent to become guardian of your children, or if you are concerned a legal dispute may arise over guardianship after your death, consult an attorney about steps you can take to protect your children.
Example of a Letter to Child Guardian
In the movie Raising Helen, Helenís sister and brother in law are killed in a tragic accident leaving their three minor children without a parent. Helenís older sister assumes she will be named guardian of the children because she has a great deal of experience raising kids, is married, has other children, and can provide a stable home for her sisterís children. However, the surviving family members soon learn the parents actually named Helen guardian in their will.
As we see in Raising Helen, this surprising choice of guardian throws the family into a state of emotional turmoil. Helen is single and lives a carefree lifestyle. She works full time, does not have a suitable home for the children, and has never shown any interest in having kids. Assuming guardianship of three children at this time in her life will require dramatic changes in her lifestyle and could negatively impact her career. Nevertheless, Helenís deceased sister chose her to be guardian of her children.When Helenís sister made her will, she wrote a letter to both sisters explaining her choice of guardian for her minor children. When the will was read, Helen and her older sister were each given a letter about the choice of guardian. These letters contained the reasons for the parentsí decision to choose Helen as guardian. The
estate plan letters were very helpful to the surviving siblings as they tried to reconcile the decision their deceased sister made.
Not a Substitute for Will or Living Trust
Writing a letter to your family or friends about why you chose a particular person to be guardian of your children is not a substitute for making a valid last will and testament. A letter to your family and friends regarding choice of guardian is not legally binding. If you have minor children, make sure you have executed a valid last will and testament naming a guardian for your children and a guardian of their property.In addition, you may want to write a letter to the guardian with important information about each child as well as the family values you want your child to learn, religious preferences, educational aspirations, etc. You can use estate planning software to write a guardianship letter to survivors and authorize guardianship as part of your estate plan.For tips on how to write a letter explaining your choice of guardian and a sample form of guardianship letter, see Guardianship Letter.For more information, see our free Estate Planning Guide for Parents.
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