We all know that we need have a Last Will and Testament drawn up to ensure that our hard-earned possessions and property are distributed in accordance with our wishes upon our death. Having a proper Will is even more critical when we have minor children because the Will is the only place we are able to legally designate the individuals (aka guardians) we trust to care for our children should something happen to us while they are still minors.
In addition to executing a Will to designate the guardians of your minor children, there is something even more important that you should consider preparing to keep as part of your overall estate plan, a detailed letter to your guardians regarding your specific wishes for how you want your children raised and specific things the guardian should know about your children.
Imagine that you have just laid your beloved sister to rest, you are mourning the loss and the realization hits you that you are now entrusted with raising her two young children in her absence. From a legal standpoint, you have a legal documents (your sister’s Will) that allows you to obtain the court authority required for you to be able to make decisions on behalf of your niece and nephew. But what about their specific needs? What type of education should they receive? How should you raise them from a religious standpoint? These are specific details that would be extremely helpful for your designated guardians to know in this critical moment.
Preparing a letter of guidance can address all of the above and more. While there is no specific template for such a letter because each letter should be unique based on your children’s needs and your wishes and dreams for them as their parents, here are a few issues to consider including in such a letter:
- Special Needs Issues: Do you children have any special needs considerations that should be handled in a specific way to give them the best options available?
- Education preferences: Do you want your children to go to private school or public school? Is higher education important for you? Should they have the opportunity to study abroad?
- Vacation and travel: Do you want your children to travel to certain countries? Do you want your children to be able to visit certain relatives who live far away?
- Likes and Dislikes: Include some of the unique aspects of your children that only you, as their parent, would know. How to get them to open up? How to cheer them up on a bad day? Things they love to do? Things they do not like (food, etc.)?
- Religious Beliefs: Do you want your children raised under a certain faith? Should your child go through certain religious ceremonies (i.e. bat mitzvah, communion, confirmation, etc.)
- Political Beliefs: Do you want your children raised to follow a certain political party?
- Automobiles: Do you want your children to receive a car when they turn 16 from the assets they inherited (in trust or outright) or should they have to buy the are to learn economics?
As you can imagine, receiving a letter of guidance from the parents of the children you are entrusted to raise after such a tragic loss can be envaluable to help ensure the children are properly cared for. A letter like this should be kept with your Will so the guardians can easily find it upon your death. This letter costs nothing to prepare and you can continue to update the letter as your children grow and their needs change.