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Jan 29, 2024

Choosing Guardians for the Kids

This week Kylie and Jason Kelce traveled to Buffalo to see Taylor’s Boyfriend defeat the Bills in the AFC Divisional game. In case you missed it, Jason Kelce famously jumped out of the suite to cheer for his brother, Travis Kelce, and it’s giving Philly. What else can we expect from the guy who led the underdog chant from the steps of the Art Museum? I’m here for it – huge fan of the Kelces, the Eagles, and Taylor Swift. I am also a huge fan of helping families get prepared. Notably, the Kelce kids weren’t in attendance at the game. When parents hit the road without their kids is often when they start thinking about what might happen to the kids if something should happen to themselves. It might set in motion a conversation about planning for guardians.

First, if parents do not select a guardian, the court is going to do it and who wants that? So what’s the alternative? Drafting some estate planning documents that outline who the parents choose to take on this incredibly important role.

Choosing a guardian is a difficult discussion for a lot of reasons. Parents might have too many or too few people they would consider to raise their children if the unthinkable happens. Their own parents often come to mind but grandparents are usually older which may not make this the best choice. With that in mind, parents may look to their siblings. The kids may be closer to one aunt or uncle over another but parents often worry about hurt feelings. This is where a private letter to the family members outlining the parents’ decision, to accompany traditional estate planning documents, might be a good gesture. It’s also a really good place to write down things parents would like the guardian to pass on to children. Examples may be favorite songs, books, sayings, and memories, hopes for their children and some extra words of love. As someone who lost a parent suddenly and at a young age, something my mom wrote for me would have meant the world. If grandparents and siblings aren’t the right fit, people often consider close friends. Parents might think about a person’s religion, politics, financial stability, and closeness to their children. There are so many soft personality traits that come into play.

Parents can also indicate who they do not want to step into this role. The court has a say in who is ultimately appointed guardian and if there is someone that should be counted out, parents should make that clear. This is especially important if there is concern about family members fighting over who should be appointed or if parents have strong feelings about not involving certain family members.

Parents: let it be said, there is no magical answer here. No one is going to do as good a job as you are, they can’t possibly because they aren’t you. People ask me who I recommend. The person I recommend is who is going to love those kids like you would because that’s who the kids will need most. Who is going to understand their needs in this new landscape, who is going to tell your story, who is going to be strong enough to help your kids face a world without you in it? We hope we never need to find out but leaving it up to the court, not planning for the worst, is leaving too much up to chance. You’d do anything for your kids, choose someone who will too.

If you want to talk about naming a guardian or any aspect of estate planning in Pennsylvania, let’s set up a consultation. I promise to be your sounding board and help you through this decision and I promise to do it with a little levity. Go Birds!