Who Cares for My Minor Children When I Die?

I recently saw the movie “Manchester By the Sea.”  The movie’s basic storyline is that an uncle is obliged to return to his hometown to care for his nephew after his brother dies.  The uncle did not know that his brother appointed him to be the guardian of his nephew and he struggles with the new responsibility.  The movie serves as an important lesson in talking to your family members about these important decisions.

We deal with guardianship issues every day.  Certainly the appointment of a guardian for your children is not normally required if another parent survives, as in most instances, the surviving parent of the children is already the children’s natural guardian and is entitled to the care and custody of the children.  But because of the possibility of the death of both parents by natural disaster or accident, it is important to have a will that expressly appoints a guardian for your children.  Although not necessarily required, I would suggest that clients speak to their prospective guardians and obtain their consent before naming them as guardians in their will.  Choosing guardianship for your children is certainly a sensitive issue, but a discussion among family members or close friends may relieve potential problems down the road and avoid a “Manchester By the Sea” scenario.