Married parents and those living together with a romantic partner often recognize how important naming a guardian for their children is. They could experience a simultaneous car crash that leaves the children with no surviving parents. People understand how cohabitation and ongoing relationship leads to the risk of both people dying or ending a hospitalized at the same time.
However, after a divorce or separation, the possibility of both parents becoming unavailable to care for the children simultaneously is much lower. Do divorced or separated parents still need to name a legal guardian in their estate plans or wills?
Naming a guardian is still a good protective decision
Parents who no longer live in the same household or spend time together socially are much less likely than those still together to die at the same time. Still, life is incredibly unpredictable, and parents have no way of knowing what might happen in the future. It isn’t only simultaneous parental deaths that would leave children dependent on a guardian named in an estate plan. There are also many other situations that might mean that one parent dies while the other is unable to care for the children, such as someone’s incarceration. Therefore, divorced parents with minor children will still likely want to name a guardian to provide for their children in their wills.
In some cases, to prevent conflict, the best option will be to discuss guardian selection with a co-parent. That way, both sets of estate planning paperwork for the divorced or separated parents will pass authority to the same individual. Consistency between the estate plans reduces the risk of probate litigation caused by conflicting parental wishes. Particularly if someone knows that their co-parent does not have a will or might end up incapacitated or incarcerated, taking the time to choose a guardian who could provide for the children’s needs could be of utmost importance. The right guardian will take care of the children and help to minimize how difficult it may be for them to adjust to life after losing a parent.
Including thoughtful terms in an estate plan may help protect vulnerable family members and can give adults peace of mind. This is true whether someone is married, separated, widowed, divorced or has never married.