Perhaps the greatest peace of mind that parents of minor children can have is knowing who will take care of their children should something happen to them. Naming a guardian in your complete will, also known as a last will and testament, helps ensure that your choice is appointed.

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A guardian is legally responsible for the child’s physical care, health, education, and welfare until he or she reaches 18 years of age. This last will include providing the basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health care decisions and education choices. The guardian is not responsible to meet the child's financial needs with his or her own money. Many times, a trustee handles those arrangements with money provided by the estate of the deceased parent or parents. The guardian is not paid for his or her services.

In most cases if your child’s other parent survives you, then that parent assumes the guardianship without any other special actions. However, you need to provide for the possibility that the other parent will not be available to be your child’s natural guardian. Before nominating someone in your last will, it's a good idea that you ask the person or persons if they are willing to become your child’s guardian. A guardian is not legally obligated to serve, and an alternate choice is recommended in case your first choice refuses or is unable to serve.

The person you choose as the guardian should have good parenting skills and values similar to your own. Family members or trusted friends are good options. Co-guardians are permitted in most cases.

Technically, your choice as a guardian is just a recommendation to the court. However, state laws give high priority to your recommendation. The court will honor your choice unless it's presented with compelling evidence against that choice. Some states allow for a minor child to have input in the decision, particularly children who are 14 years of age or older.

Get started Start Your Last Will and Testament Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Last Will and Testament Answer a few questions. We'll take care of the rest.