Some New Jersey parents may still believe that they do not need an estate plan since they do not have many assets. However, for parents who have minor children, estate planning is about much more than distributing assets. Without a will, who will care for the children may be left to the courts.
Therefore, a New Jersey court will be making an intensely personal decision on behalf of the children — and the deceased parent. Moreover, family members could spend a significant amount of time and money in court attempting to prove why each of them would be the best choice to be the children’s guardian. There is no guarantee that the court will choose the same person the parent would have chosen.
Choosing a guardian can be a challenge. Ideally, the person chosen will love the children nearly as much as their parents and have similar beliefs and values regarding education, religion and other life choices. It may also be beneficial to choose someone who lives in the same geographical location in order to limit the amount of disruption in the children’s lives — especially after recently losing a parent. It is also important that the guardian has the physical capacity and the financial resources to properly care for the children.
After the person is chosen and accepts the responsibility, this information can be added to the will as part of the parent’s estate planning documents. Any assets of the individual may also be left either to the prospective guardian or to the minor children in a trust. This could help cover at least a portion of the financial impact on the guardian. Most importantly, however, everyone will have the peace of mind that the children will be cared for by someone who loves them.
Source: wfmynews2.com, “Choosing A Guardian: If You Don’t The Court Will”, Tanya Rivera, Nov. 7, 2014