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The right way to change your child’s designated legal guardian

On Behalf of | Dec 28, 2022 | Estate Planning

When your child was born, you and your spouse had the incentive you needed to create a will and to name the person(s) who would take over the care of your child in case you both died before they reached adulthood. Having someone who has agreed to take on that role and whom you feel secure about can prevent your child from added stress at what would be the most difficult time in their young life.

Now things have changed. Maybe you chose one of your parents whose health has significantly deteriorated. Perhaps you chose a sibling who has moved far away from your child’s family and friends. You may have chosen a close friend who married someone you strongly dislike and has become largely estranged from you since they developed radically different social and political views.

Whatever the reason, your original choice for a guardian is no longer appropriate, and your child is still years from adulthood. What should you do?

Fortunately, estate plans can and indeed should be modified as things change over the years. Changing your designated guardian isn’t difficult to do as far as modifying the appropriate document(s). However, you need to make sure the new person you’ve chosen agrees to take on the responsibility. If you already chose them as your contingent guardian, this shouldn’t be a problem – but check with them anyway.

Notifying the person you’re replacing can be a challenge – but it’s necessary

If the choice to change your guardian was yours and not theirs, telling them of your decision can be difficult. If something significant has changed since you made the choice (like health, geographic location or perhaps the guardian’s own family situation), they may accept your choice gracefully. Just be prepared to explain why you’re doing what’s best for everyone – especially your child. 

You don’t legally have to notify the person you originally named that they’re being replaced. However, there’s a chance they’ll find out from someone else. Even worse, if something happens when the guardian has to step in, it’s going to be a messy situation – and it will just delay your child getting the care and support they need.

Whether you need to choose a legal guardian for your child or change your designated guardian, reach out to our experienced estate planning attorneys at 814-833-2222.

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