Leaving Instructions for Care of Your Minor Children
If you are the parent of minor children, estate planning should be a high priority. There are several estate planning steps you can take to protect and provide for your children, such as making a will and naming a guardian for your children. It is also generally recommended that you write a guardianship letter explaining your choice of guardian. You may also want to buy life insurance, fund college savings plans, and establish a trust to hold property for the benefit of your minor children. But as you go through these steps, perhaps the greatest concern you will have is how your children will be raised if something happens to you.
Parenting your children may be the single most important thing you will do in your life. Our thoughts and feelings about how to be a good parent are deeply personal. They are the culmination of all we have learned in life. Most of us want nothing short of excellence for our children, in every aspect of their lives. The hopes and dreams we have for them may be a huge burden to place on a guardian, but as parents, we are unwilling to compromise what we want for our children.
As the parent of minor children, your estate plan may not be complete without a letter to guardian. This is an estate plan letter you can write to the guardian outlining essential information about each child and your wishes on how they should be raised.
Information to Include in Your Letter to Guardian
It is up to you to decide what to put in your letter to guardian. There is no specific form you need to follow. However, your letter should be organized, concise, and clear. You want your letter to be something the guardian is comfortable reading several times, so keep that in mind when writing it.
The following is a list of topics you may want to address in your letter to guardian:
1. A summary of any health conditions or illnesses of your children. Your letter to guardian should include information on any food or drug allergies your child has and any medications he or she takes.
2. Family health history, such as diseases on both the maternal and paternal sides for each child.
3. Information on the learning and educational style of each child. If one of your children is gifted or has a learning disability, this information should be included in your letter to guardian.
4. Religious preferences and traditions. If you would like your children raised in a particular faith, include information on their place of worship and traditions you would like them to observe.
5. Information on extracurricular interests or activities and special talents or abilities.
6. Contact information for relatives with whom you want your children to stay in touch.
7. Educational aspirations. If your child has already expressed an interest in attending a particular school or several members of your family attended a particular university, you may want to include this type of information in your letter to guardian.
8. Important attachments. If your child has a strong bond with a family pet, it may be very important to ensure your child is not separated from that pet after losing a parent. See Pet Trust. If your child is very close to a particular aunt, uncle, cousin or nephew, your guardian should be made aware of that attachment so he or she can arrange for your child to visit that relative as much as possible.
Free Estate Planning Guide for Parents and Stepparents
Create the estate planning documents that are necessary to protect your children and ensure your property goes to your intended beneficiaries. For free estate planning forms, tips, checklists, and more, see our free Parents Estate Planning Guide.
Reasons to Write a Letter to Guardian
There are many reasons to write a letter to the person you name as guardian of your minor children. If your children are placed in the care of a guardian after the loss of a parent, it is likely they will have experienced a tremendous amount of chaos or upheaval in their lives. The guardian may want to keep your children involved in as many of their normal activities as possible to give them a sense of stability. However, your guardian will be unable to do that unless he or she knows important details about how your children spend their time, their likes and dislikes, which relationships are important to them, and the types of things you allow your children to do.
You may assume your children will readily provide the guardian this information. But every child reacts differently to the death of a parent. Your child may be unwilling or unable to talk openly with the guardian. Also, your children may be too young to remember certain information. As a parent, you are in the best position to provide the guardian the information they need to properly care for your children. While it may seem like a time consuming exercise to write this type of letter when it may never be needed, it could make a significant difference in the lives of your children if they are ever sent to live with a guardian.
To see a sample form of letter to guardian, see Letter to Child Guardian. For more information on how to make a will to name a guardian for minor children, see Estate Planning Software.