New or Growing Families

Amidst the joy that comes with an addition to the family, hopes and dreams for the future abound. While parents envision a bright future for their child, it is important to plan for a time when you will not be there for your child. In the absence of such planning, the court will determine who will be your child's guardian. The court, along with the appointed guardian, will also decide how your assets will be used to care for your child.

Several important and simple planning steps can be taken to ensure the best for your child. In Indiana, you can name a guardian for your minor child in your Last Will and Testament. As an extra measure of protection you can name a contingent guardian in case your first choice is unable to serve. Remember, it is important to discuss your wishes regarding how you want your children raised, indicating your preferences for education, religion, lifestyle, and other factors with the person you select as your guardian.

When you are choosing someone to be your child's guardian there are several things to consider:

  1. If you will be looking to your parents, it is important consider how their age/health/energy level, 5, 10, or 15 years into the future will affect their suitability as guardians for your child. Of course your parents will love your child, but are they ready and willing to take on the task of raising him or her?
  2. Does the guardian you're considering live in another city or state? Is it better to name someone in your area so that your child is not uprooted from his or her school and friends while also dealing with the emotions of his or her parents' death?
  3. Are you comfortable with the guardian's parenting style and moral/religious beliefs?

While your child is a minor, you can name a guardian to handle any money that you leave to your children. This may be the same as the guardian caring for your child or another person. When your child turns 18 he or she will have access to, and full control of, that money. Most eighteen-year-olds do not have the judgment and ability to prudently make financial decisions. Often, the better option is to include a trust in your Will to manage the money you are leaving your child until he or she reaches a point of maturity that you feel is appropriate. With a trust you can ensure that the money is used in your child's best long-term interest (such as for secondary education) and is protected from creditors and divorce.