You and your spouse or partner gave a lot of thought to choosing the person who would become your child’s legal guardian should something happen to both of you. You chose a family member or close friend you trusted to raise your child with the same basic values and priorities as yours.
Naming a legal guardian in a will or other document is often how people first begin their estate planning. Like most other estate planning decisions, this one can always be changed. However, you need to do it the right way.
Why would you change your designated legal guardian?
This happens for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, people choose one of their child’s grandparents, but as that person gets a bit older, they develop health issues that would make taking on a child too much. Sometimes, the chosen guardian moves across the country or somewhere else that would take their child far away from other family and friends if they went to live with them.
Still other times, close friends and even family become estranged over life changes. Maybe someone develops a serious substance abuse issue or goes into a downward financial spiral. Political and social issues can even tear people apart. If a friend or relative has become someone you feel you no longer know, you can’t take a chance that they could end up raising your child.
What is required to change your guardian?
Once you’ve gotten your new choice’s agreement, the legal change is relatively simple. It may be as easy as your attorney drawing up a codicil replacing the previously named guardian with the new one.
You also need to notify the person you originally named. That can be a difficult conversation to have. While you aren’t legally required to notify them, it’s in everyone’s interests – particularly your child’s – that you do.
While the odds are that your child will reach adulthood with you and their other parent alive and well, what if that doesn’t happen? Do you want your original guardian finding out from the court – or the new guardian – that you changed your estate plan? If they decide to fight it, your child’s life could be in limbo until the court rules.
Having experienced legal guidance as you change your designated guardian make this change can help you handle it efficiently and appropriately.