How can I appoint a guardian for my child?

Little daughter closing dads eyes with hands and laughing after child custody caseAppointing a guardian for your child or children is a good idea because the alternative is not appealing. If you do not appoint a guardian to watch over your children, the courts decide who the guardian is going to be—even if it’s not the person you would have picked yourself.

How to choose a guardian

A guardian is a trusted party—not always a relative—who can care for your child or children when you can’t. While it would seem logical that a relative would automatically be named a guardian, the courts can choose anyone who steps forward to be guardian. That volunteer may not be someone you would choose or trust to care for your child or children.

Beyond trust, consider your options for a legal guardian carefully. The right guardian:

  • shares your values and religious priorities,
  • is physically and mentally capable to care for your child or children,
  • can raise them in the ideal location,
  • is able to continue contact with the children’s family (if you want that to happen),
  • has the capacity (even with other children) to take your child or children in.

Your chosen guardian must be an adult; minors are not legally granted guardianship of other minors. Ironically, you may not need to consider their financial responsibility if you leave funds for your children’s care; another party can be named for the financial aspect.

How to appoint a guardian

To name a guardian for your children in case you die, contact an attorney to draft a will that spells out your wishes for your children and your financial assets. If you do not trust your appointed guardian with your assets, you can include specific directions for any funds you leave behind for the care of your children.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Living Trust versus Will: What’s the difference?

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willIn the past few years we’ve had more clients in our Wisconsin offices asking about revocable living trusts and whether or not a living trust is right for their estate planning. While we can’t answer the latter question here (make an appointment to find out if a living trust is right for your situation), we can give you a basic overview of revocable living trusts and wills.

Will

The will is the most common estate planning document. A will is a legal document (find tips for drafting a legal will here) that details your wishes, such as guardianship of minor children, distribution of assets, and who the executor is that carries out your wishes. Other than drafting a will and other important estate planning documents, no other actions may be necessary during the estate owner’s lifetime.

Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is a legal document that outlines your assets and distribution. The living trust is revocable at any time. In a living trust, all assets are placed in a living trust and a trustee is appointed to manage the assets. Typically, the trustee is the estate owner during their lifetime and is transferred to another party or parties when necessary.

Similarities

A revocable living trust shares similarities to a will. Both legal documents dictate the distribution of your assets and should be established during estate planning prior to one’s death. Also, estate taxes are the same for estates with a will and living trust.

Differences

There are some key differences between these estate planning documents, however. A revocable living trust is not a public document, making all matters private. When an estate is in a living trust, the estate does not have to go through probate. All wills have to go through probate, which can take longer (in some cases months or years) and incur more expenses to the estate. Overall, it is easier to create and make changes to a will than it is to a living trust. A living trust has more initial costs during set-up than a traditional will.

What is right for you

Your lawyer can discuss whether a will or revocable living trust, or a combination of both (a “pour over will”), is right for your situation. Make an appointment to get the process started and determine which legal option is right for your estate and your family.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

Alex Phillips

alex_s_phillips_2017-800x1200Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet and Smith LLP is proud to announce the addition of our newest attorney, Alex Phillips. Alex is a Pulaski, Wisconsin native and attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, receiving a Bachelors in 2014. Alex then attended the University of Wisconsin Law School, graduating in 2017. Alex will practice in the areas of civil litigation, insurance coverage disputes, personal injury, Worker’s Compensation and criminal defense. He is looking forward to getting to know the Watertown area and representing its residents.