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What’s involved in changing your child’s designated guardian?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2022 | Estate Planning |

You did the responsible thing when your child was born and selected a person to be their legal guardian if something were to happen to you and your spouse or partner. You talked it over with them, and they agreed. You codified everything in your estate plan.

Now things have changed. That person is no longer suitable. That happens all the time. Fortunately, it’s not difficult or expensive to modify that document. It’s generally done by adding a codicil

What can be far more difficult for many people is notifying the person you previously chose that you’ve asked someone else and they’ve agreed. If you and your previously designated guardian agree that they’re no longer the best choice – or if they’ve asked you to be relieved of that potential responsibility – it’s not so difficult, of course.

Maybe you chose a sibling who has since moved abroad or perhaps is dealing with significant health challenges. Maybe you chose some friends who just adopted a special needs child from overseas and can no longer imagine taking on another child.

However, sometimes it’s more complicated. A lot of friends and family members have become estranged in recent years due to opposing political and social views. Maybe you can no longer imagine the person who used to be your best friend raising your child. Maybe your chosen guardian has fallen into substance abuse or significant financial difficulties or even criminal activity.

You’re not required to notify the original guardian – but you should

Do you even have to tell a designated guardian that you’ve replaced them? Odds are, they’ll never find out, and you wouldn’t be around to have to deal with it anyway. You have no legal obligation to inform them. If the subject never comes up or you’re estranged from them, why open a can of worms? 

For one thing, if something does happen to you and your spouse, your original guardian is going to be angry and hurt – and possibly go to court. While they likely won’t prevail, do you want your child and your new designated guardian dealing with that?

You may find that the best choice is to write your previous guardian a letter and put a copy of that letter in your estate plan so there’s no question that this was your decision. Having experienced legal guidance can help you make this change as uncomplicated as possible.

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