A major impetus for making a will is to provide for the care of minor children. If you have a minor child or children you may want to choose a guardian to serve in your place should you die before your children reach the age of majority. There are two basic types of legal guardians: a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate of minor children, but these functions can be performed by one person. The guardian of the person is responsible for decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the minor child. The guardian of the estate is responsible for the child’s property and for managing finances for the minor child.

When one natural parent dies, generally the other natural parent is appointed as the guardian for minor children, whether or not the parents were married at the time. If someone besides a surviving natural parent of a minor child is named as guardian in a will, the surviving natural parent can contest that nomination. The court will then determine whether the appointment of the other parent as the guardian would be detrimental to the best interests of the minor child. Courts strongly prefer that children be placed in the guardianship of their natural parents whenever possible. It is very difficult from a legal standpoint to overcome this presumption. However, if both natural parents are deceased, it is important to name a guardian for minor children, to ensure the children (and their financial assets) will be cared for by someone the parents trust.

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