Dedicated To Extraordinary Advocacy,
Focused On Exceptional Results

Changing your child’s designated legal guardian

On Behalf of | Apr 11, 2024 | Estate Planning

If you’re like many people, you took your first step into estate planning when your child was born. You designated someone to be their legal guardian should you and your spouse or partner both pass away or become unable to care for them before they turned 18.

This is a crucial step to help avoid putting your child in legal limbo should something catastrophic happen. However, the choice you made years ago when your child was born may no longer be appropriate. This can happen for many reasons. Maybe you chose one of your child’s grandparents who has developed serious health challenges. Perhaps you chose a sibling who has moved abroad.

Oftentimes, the reason for a change isn’t the guardian, but the child. Maybe your child has physical, developmental or mental health challenges that your selected guardian isn’t equipped to handle.

What’s necessary to change your child’s designated guardian?

Like most things in an estate plan, your named guardian can be changed (and it’s not an uncommon modification). However, it’s critical to know how to go about it.

The legal portion of this process is fairly simple. If you named the guardian in your will, which is the most common way, you can add an addendum (known as a codicil) to the will revoking the current guardian and naming another one. If the guardian is named anywhere else, such as in a trust, you’ll likely need to make changes there, too.

Before you change any documents, however, confirm with your new choice that they agree to take on the responsibility if it becomes necessary. It’s important for anyone you ask to give it real thought.

Don’t leave your original guardian in the dark

If the choice to remove your original guardian is yours rather than theirs, this can be an uncomfortable conversation. However, it’s necessary. While you have no legal obligation to tell them, it’s best for everyone. You don’t want them finding out from someone else. More important, if your guardian does have to step in and care for your child, having more than one person who thinks the role is theirs will likely mean some kind of court action, which will be the last thing your child needs.

As with any modification to an estate plan, it’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance to deal with your unique circumstances. This will help to ensure that your child will always be cared for.