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Designating adult sibling as preferred guardian in a will

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Has anyone done this?

Dh and I need to update our will; dh's brother and his wife were our first choice as guardians but his brother passed away which changes things. At this point I would designate one of my brothers and his wife as our first choice, with a couple of alternates. But my oldest child will be 18 in a couple of years and I am contemplating at that point making her the designated first choice guardian; unlike any other relative or friend she knows the workings of our family intimately and would represent the least disruption for her siblings should anything happen to us.

That would be such a very heavy burden for a young adult to take on however that I hesitate to consider it.

Hopefully no contingency guardianship plan will ever be used of course, but we have to have something in place.

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We did this.  My oldest son is legal guardian for my youngest child.  (They are 10 1/2 years apart in age).  We made the switch after he graduated from college and was somewhat settled, though.  I don't think I'd do it with a sibling who had just turned 18 unless I had no other choices.  My youngest will be 18 next year and I'll be relieved that we don't have to use her brother since it wouldn't be an ideal situation but it was our best option (he just moved out of state).  

 

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I’m considering it.  (My second-oldest, actually. And the next is only a year younger). I don’t WANT to do it, but I don’t have a whole lot of options.  We’re no-contact with our least-stable relatives.  My parents are getting older and are currently housing my sister’s family. Plus, they live 12 hours away.

We do have friends who would offer plenty of support, but living with and raising  the rest of the kids is much different from just helping out.

There is a chance that the younger kids would get put into foster care otherwise. So, as much as I hate it, I do feel it’s our best bet, and I just hope the odds are in our favor!!!

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We've talked about it. None of my kids like the current situation spelled out in our wills should both DH & I die. Eldest actually offered though she's not 18 yet.

Several of my friends here have offered to be guardians, too. Honestly, the kids would rather be split up among friends locally than go together to my BIL's with their family. There are worse options but not by much.

I can't see doing it unless there were clear helps put in place for eldest because running a household of kids is a LOT of work.

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We have this arrangement.  My oldest is now 25, her siblings are 14 and 12.  We've had this in effect since she was 18.    She would have the support of my mother, a decent life insurance settlement which could pay off the house and give her some breathing room to finish school, etc.   She's aware and fully on board.

We don't really have any other options.  My mother could help but couldn't take on full time care of the kids.  Every one else in our families is basically a "no way in hell" so it is what it is.

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We've done it. As everybody has gotten older, including our formerly stated guardians (now in their 70s and one not in great health), it seemed the best thing to do. So our second oldest we named as guardian to our two youngest. This was with the caveat that at the time, decisions could be made as to what seemed best for all, considering the current circumstances. She wouldn't be required for them to live with her if another sibling's situation seemed better suited, for example. Now, it is only the youngest who is underage.

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We are planning to do this soon.  Our current will is for my parents, with contingency being by brother and his (now ex-) wife. My parents are getting much too old and not in great health to deal with teenagers, and my brother's situation is no longer healthy.  My oldest is 21 and still in school, but it's really the only option we've got.  Dh's parents passed away long ago,  and he was an only child. Dd is on board with it though. It would be a lot to handle.  We do have plenty of life insurance, so at least that part wouldn't be a problem. But it would still be very tough. 

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One thing I've been thinking I should do is to increase my life insurance policy. Dh is not really insurable in the private market, he has the maximum insurance he can get through his group policy at work but it is less than we would like. I'm healthy and insurable though and could get a higher policy than I have. That would give any guardian more flexibility to meet whatever needs arise.

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We have our middle son (now24) as legal guardian for our daughter if anything happens to my husband and I.  We talked to him about it and our lawyer said to make sure he knows he can go to her with any and all questions.  He knows exactly what we expect from him.  everything is spelled out.

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My oldest son, 24, was very insistent that he must be guardian to his youngest sibling, 14, if something were to happen to us. He felt that our siblings would not be a good fit. 

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We have DS23 listed as guardian of the younger four boys (10, 7, 5, & 2), with my mother in charge of the money. DH has an insurance policy that will cover all debts and offer several years of cushion, given that DS23 isn't yet,self-sufficient, employment-wise.

Edited by Noreen Claire
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I have one AC named as guardian, and another named as financial. (though I can see changing the financial to my 2ds/accountant) That was maybe 12 years ago - so two were barely adults, but extremely responsible.  remember, the likelihood of something happening to both parents at the same time, is pretty slim.  

what's the support system like for the 18yo if you and your dh aren't there?

 

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one thing we did - was put everything in a trust.  (the will/designating which child goes where etc.,  is part of the trust).  we forked out for a law firm that does a lot of estate law/trusts.  so they're very good.  we used them for my mother's trust as well.  things we never would have thought about came up too.

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1 hour ago, maize said:

One thing I've been thinking I should do is to increase my life insurance policy. Dh is not really insurable in the private market, he has the maximum insurance he can get through his group policy at work but it is less than we would like. I'm healthy and insurable though and could get a higher policy than I have. That would give any guardian more flexibility to meet whatever needs arise.

I would very much suggest doing this to the highest level you can afford for a term policy that will get the youngest through at least high school graduation. And possibly looking into setting up trusts for your kids if that's financially feasible as you have so many kids that  are so young. Then no matter who is guardian, there is at least some guidance on spending and making sure it's set up to meet the needs of ALL the kids, if that makes sense. 

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My oldest is 12, so obviously I am not considering this choice, but I given our family’s situation, I just wanted to say that I think it’s great that people are continually asking whether their plans are still the best and updating them regularly.

I think that if DS2’s parents had done that, things would be very different for him.

 

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We made my oldest dd guardian of our two younger children when oldest DD was 21 I think. She wasn't settled but we have great insurance and a decent retirement plan that would help out a great deal. However, we did ask my BIL to be the executor so he was in charge of the money. I made sure that oldest dd knew she could go to any of her aunts and uncles for help. We just didn't want our children living with any of them because at the time we made this decision, there were some life issues with each that we felt weren't compatible with our parental plan. Oldest dd knew what was important to us and we knew she'd do whatever it took to carry out those plans as long as it didn't interfere with her life, i.e. if she was married and her husband objected to anything. I also talked to my cousin who was our guardian when all 3 of my children were minors and she agreed to help oldest dd if needed. We felt we covered our bases as well as we could.

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We are getting ready to do this with our oldest who is 21 and a college senior. Our youngest is 11 and we have plenty of life insurance. I told oldest ds he would be set to send her to private school and have a nanny, etc. to basically do whatever it took to make life doable. He is super responsible (for 21) and he would make sure she was taken care of. 

I am sure by all accounts we are overinsured. I just cannot imagine placing that burden on my ds without making sure he had the money to do whatever it took to care for her. 

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Dh and I are both the oldest of 6 kids and got married pretty young. Both of our parents made us the guardians of our siblings. My parents when I was 18 (siblings ages 16, 14, 11, 9, 7 at the time) and dh's at 21 when we were married. At one point, we could have in theory had 8 teenagers we inherited between the two of us. But we have very large extended families and both parents had large life insurance policies, meaning there would be no financial burden and lots of support. They both asked us before doing it. We agreed and realized that if the worst were to happen, it would basically mean putting our lives and education on hold, but we were willing to make that sacrifice.

Now that our siblings are grown, we've been asked to be guardians of 8 of my nephews and nieces should something happen to our siblings. So yeah, its just a part of being a responsible older sibling, ime.

Sort of funny story, my mom had 6 kids. Aunt B had 8. My Aunt C had 6. Aunt C was appointed guardian for both my mom and Aunt B's kids. One time my parents and Aunt B were on a plane together. If that plane had gone down, poor Aunt C would be raising 20 children. That would have been a different kind of family, I think. 😊

Edited by MeaganS
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Are these the dates each child was born? DD'03 DS'05 DD'07 DS'10 DS'12 DD'15 DS'17

If so, I think that's too much for someone in their late teens to early 20s. At 18, siblings would be 16, 14, 11, 9, 6, and 4. I think that's way different from an 18-yr-old with one teen sibling who just has to get through a few years, or a married 24-yr-old with one or two younger siblings who has graduated college or is established in work and has a partner. I think the disruption to the two oldest siblings would outweigh the disruption to the five youngest siblings, because of course there will be massive disruption if both parents die but they can and will adjust to a new household. If you currently homeschool, that is not likely to continue no matter who takes them on, disruption is inevitable. 

You should increase your insurance for sure, but it's probably going to be hard to increase it enough to have a young adult stay home with kids for 14 years - because even if you fund those 14 years, the 32-yr-old with no experience is going to be in a very bad way financially. Lots of people on this board have posted about the massive financial hit that results from homeschooling, and it's no joke for sure.  One thing to keep in mind is that many of us are single income families, but our spouses have jobs that provide subsidized insurance. If the young person is intended to actually stay home with the siblings, they won't have that and it's a massive expense. I don't know what scenarios you are considering, but take a long hard look at what each one will cost. Homeschooling may or may not be an option even in the short term. Kids in public school may still need aftercare and will need summer camps and so on. We all need to put pen to paper to see what is possible financially, what things really cost, and so on. 

I would personally stick with the brother until the oldest is about 22. That would mean a more manageable number of children, a less lengthy commitment, and more possibilities for getting a nanny and/or paid support from other homeschool families if that's important. 

 

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4 minutes ago, katilac said:

Are these the dates each child was born? DD'03 DS'05 DD'07 DS'10 DS'12 DD'15 DS'17

If so, I think that's too much for someone in their late teens to early 20s. At 18, siblings would be 16, 14, 11, 9, 6, and 4. I think that's way different from an 18-yr-old with one teen sibling who just has to get through a few years, or a married 24-yr-old with one or two younger siblings who has graduated college or is established in work and has a partner. I think the disruption to the two oldest siblings would outweigh the disruption to the five youngest siblings, because of course there will be massive disruption if both parents die but they can and will adjust to a new household. If you currently homeschool, that is not likely to continue no matter who takes them on, disruption is inevitable. 

You should increase your insurance for sure, but it's probably going to be hard to increase it enough to have a young adult stay home with kids for 14 years - because even if you fund those 14 years, the 32-yr-old with no experience is going to be in a very bad way financially. Lots of people on this board have posted about the massive financial hit that results from homeschooling, and it's no joke for sure.  One thing to keep in mind is that many of us are single income families, but our spouses have jobs that provide subsidized insurance. If the young person is intended to actually stay home with the siblings, they won't have that and it's a massive expense. I don't know what scenarios you are considering, but take a long hard look at what each one will cost. Homeschooling may or may not be an option even in the short term. Kids in public school may still need aftercare and will need summer camps and so on. We all need to put pen to paper to see what is possible financially, what things really cost, and so on. 

I would personally stick with the brother until the oldest is about 22. That would mean a more manageable number of children, a less lengthy commitment, and more possibilities for getting a nanny and/or paid support from other homeschool families if that's important. 

 

I wouldn't expect an older sibling to stay home and homeschool the youngers. If something happened to us though I don't think she would want to leave the household, likely not unless she were getting married. I would want life insurance to cover household help, a nanny,  etc. This would be true even if only I were to die, which is another good reason to increase the life insurance policy on me. Dh is not up to raising the family without a lot of help.

Younger kids would likely adjust to a new household but moving away from established friends and support system would not be good for my older kids. And the kids would need to stay together.

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The guardian designated in the will is not binding.  The court can choose differently if the judge thinks it is in the best interest of the children.  If picking a very young adult, I would want to make sure I had a law firm who would fight for my wishes to be followed.  

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1 minute ago, maize said:

I wouldn't expect an older sibling to stay home and homeschool the youngers. If something happened to us though I don't think she would want to leave the household, likely not unless she were getting married. I would want life insurance to cover household help, a nanny,  etc. This would be true even if only I were to die, which is another good reason to increase the life insurance policy on me. Dh is not up to raising the family without a lot of help.

Younger kids would likely adjust to a new household but moving away from established friends and support system would not be good for my older kids. And the kids would need to stay together.

A nanny and household help does make it far more manageable. 

Are there people in your local support system who might agree to take on a quasi-parental role in this case? I know many would likely step up to the plate and offer help at the time, but it would be great if you established something more formally. It wouldn't have legal standing but would clarify expectations and discussing it might spark some ideas. People might want to agree to: 

  • Plan on taking a certain number of the children for a weekend each month.
  • Have the same-aged children join their own for swim team and scouts (providing rides and general oversight). 
  • Offer financial expertise; maybe meet officially once per year and be open to questions. 

Again, these are things that can be offered at the time, but everyone might feel more comfortable and less overwhelmed if it's discussed a bit beforehand. Sometimes people don't want to offer certain kinds of help, like financial advice, bc they fear overstepping. Sometimes people don't want to accept certain kinds of help bc they fear they are taking advantage. 

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3 minutes ago, LucyStoner said:

The guardian designated in the will is not binding.  The court can choose differently if the judge thinks it is in the best interest of the children.  If picking a very young adult, I would want to make sure I had a law firm who would fight for my wishes to be followed.  

Yes, and have people lined up who are willing to say they agree with the choice and will offer support. 

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We were in this situation with needing to choose a guardian but having the sibling (older dd) enough older potentially to do the work. We simply have an understanding with the people we chose as guardians that dd is to take care of him if she can and they are to facilitate that. That's our plan for the transition years. As dd ages and is settled, maybe mid-20s, then we can change that documentation to say her, sure. But for now, the guardian with understanding that they are to be kept together is good enough. Ds doesn't actually know well the people who would be his guardians, so it wasn't rocket science to them to understand why, above all things, he would be placed with his sister.

The real issue in situations like this is $$$. Make sure your trust funds, etc. are carefully arranged. You would never want a situation where someone has a financial reason to want to keep control of the dc. 

Edited by PeterPan
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1 minute ago, PeterPan said:

We were in this situation with needing to choose a guardian but having the sibling (older dd) enough older potentially to do the work. We simply have an understanding with the people we chose as guardians that dd is to take cover of him if she can and they are to facilitate that. That's our plan for the transition years. As dd ages and is settled, maybe mid-20s, then we can change that documentation to say her, sure. But for now, the guardian with understanding that they are to be kept together is good enough. Ds doesn't actually know well the people who would be his guardians, so it wasn't rocket science to them to understand why, above all things, he would be placed with his sister.

The real issue in situations like this is $$$. Make sure your trust funds, etc. are carefully arranged. You would never want a situation where someone has a financial reason to want to keep control of the dc. 

This is part of my reasoning with choosing an older sibling if possible. My family all live far away, they are good people and would be good surrogate parents but the kids don't know them well. Losing parents and then being uprooted and sent to live with almost strangers would be awfully tough on any child.

Dh has family who live less than two hours from us so we see them somewhat more often but they would still be going to an entirely new community.

I do have some friends nearby I could ask to look out for my kids and stay involved in their lives, and our church community is solid and local (as in, half of our neighborhood belongs to our congregation).

Local schools are quite decent if enrolling the kids became necessary; most of my kids have done at least one year in brick and mortar school so it wouldn't be a huge shock as transitions go. Not ideal for some of them but we are looking at contingencies not ideal situations. There is a local university my oldest could attend with good scholarship programs. 

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20 minutes ago, maize said:

This is part of my reasoning with choosing an older sibling if possible. My family all live far away, they are good people and would be good surrogate parents but the kids don't know them well. Losing parents and then being uprooted and sent to live with almost strangers would be awfully tough on any child.

Dh has family who live less than two hours from us so we see them somewhat more often but they would still be going to an entirely new community.

I do have some friends nearby I could ask to look out for my kids and stay involved in their lives, and our church community is solid and local (as in, half of our neighborhood belongs to our congregation).

Local schools are quite decent if enrolling the kids became necessary; most of my kids have done at least one year in brick and mortar school so it wouldn't be a huge shock as transitions go. Not ideal for some of them but we are looking at contingencies not ideal situations. There is a local university my oldest could attend with good scholarship programs. 

 

We have been in that situation with one of my kids (we're the receiving strangers), and yes, it's hard.  But the same kid has also been in the situation of being placed with someone who loved him dearly, but simply wasn't able to do right by him, and that was definitely worse.  

We've thought a lot about what would happen to our kids if we died, especially since we have a kid who really needs a stay at home parent, and all of the suitable new parents work. Right now, the plan is that a grandparent would retire, and move with the kids to be that caregiver.  Would asking your oldest to move with the siblings, at least for the first year or two be an option?  

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7 minutes ago, CuriousMomof3 said:

 

We have been in that situation with one of my kids (we're the receiving strangers), and yes, it's hard.  But the same kid has also been in the situation of being placed with someone who loved him dearly, but simply wasn't able to do right by him, and that was definitely worse.  

We've thought a lot about what would happen to our kids if we died, especially since we have a kid who really needs a stay at home parent, and all of the suitable new parents work. Right now, the plan is that a grandparent would retire, and move with the kids to be that caregiver.  Would asking your oldest to move with the siblings, at least for the first year or two be an option?  

Oldest is the most rooted in the local community at this point, but no knowing what the circumstances will be in a few years. 

From that perspective I suppose just staying on top of needed updates is what is called for, kids growing up, going to college, getting married means lots of potential changes.

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58 minutes ago, maize said:

 

I do have some friends nearby I could ask to look out for my kids and stay involved in their lives, and our church community is solid and local (as in, half of our neighborhood belongs to our congregation).

 

 

We listed close neighbors as guardians until my oldest ds was ready to take on the responsibility.  Again,not ideal, but dd knew them well enough and she could stay local.  She'd be taken care of financially from our estate so money wasn't an issue.

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11 minutes ago, maize said:

Oldest is the most rooted in the local community at this point, but no knowing what the circumstances will be in a few years. 

From that perspective I suppose just staying on top of needed updates is what is called for, kids growing up, going to college, getting married means lots of potential changes.


I think you're smart to think about this as a moving target, and to recognize that the answer might change year to year.

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We wanted to name my daughter but in my state a guardian must be 21.  So we put in our will that if my daughter was old enough she had first choice of getting guardianship of her brother.  If she did not want to nor felt she could not then we have a 2nd guardian named. 

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I'd name my eldest, but I know she would have support from other family members, plus there's only one minor child to consider.  She wouldn't be responsible for him for long, nor fulltime, nor would she have to financially support him. 

I'd hesitate, honestly, with a young woman and more than two minor siblings, especially if other family support wasn't local.  However, it would depend on the wishes of the eldest.

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1 hour ago, maize said:

From that perspective I suppose just staying on top of needed updates is what is called for, kids growing up, going to college, getting married means lots of potential changes.

Talk with your lawyer, but one set of guardians and a letter of intent might be smoother. And the letter of intent can say the sibling would be as involved as appropriate. 

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Thinking about this today I have decided to talk to my widowed sister in law and see how she would feel about remaining our first choice guardian; she lives closer than my brother and most of her children are older than mine. There are other family members in that local area as well who would offer support.

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I would not name my oldest as guardian if they were only 18.  But, I say this more in hind site.  At 18, personalities are still forming, even if they appear as set.  I think it's asking a lot of an 18-year-old when they haven't even figured out their own lives yet.  

That said, it could easily be totally different if they were 25, had a career, appeared very stable, etc.

I'd probably try and find someone else, but might put a caveat in place that says that oldest child can have input on decisions -- not sure how that would play out.  But, ultimately, I wouldn't want to give 18-year-old that responsibility alone.  

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I am doing that now with our in-progress will update. We only have one minor child left, and we'll make our oldest (most responsible) adult child her guardian. 

Caveat: I'd only do this if you have serious money available via insurance or your own wealth to make sure the care won't be a burden and that all needed financial resources are available to make raising the kid(s) relatively painless. I.e., hiring a nanny, buying or renting a big nice house near the adult child's college if they're in school, etc. We have TONS of insurance, so finance won't be an issue, especially since our youngest is < 2 years away from being in college herself. 

Personally, if there will be lots of money involved, I wouldn't want a young adult sibling solely responsible for all the money, so we have trusts in place to handle the finances, and another older, wiser, very trusted adult on as a trustee. The trusts are somewhat complicated in that we're setting aside a portion of the money for the kids futures, so essentially locked down until they are 25+, and then another large pot is available for taking care of them meanwhile (with the remainder distributed when all are launched/25-30+, it's a LOT of money because we have a LOT of insurance). So, there'll be PLENTY of money to support everyone through college/grad school, but then even if they blow through it like water -- I..e, one or two of them choose really expensive schooling and/or someone has a medical or other crisis that blows through a lot  of the "keep them alive (and OK and educated/housed/fed) until they're 25 money", there'll STILL be SOME nest-egg money for each adult child once they are launched, so none will get "nothing" even if one or two has really high needs. Anyway, it's complicated, but I think if you're putting a young adult in charge, you need a more complicated plan to make sure they have some "guardrails" protecting each of them from making poor choices and also protecting each of them from getting "nothing" if one of the other kids really screws up (addiction, etc). 

Also, FWIW, if the older/trusted relative who will be trustee isn't personally very well off, if possible, I'd set aside a piece of insurance money to compensate them for travel/etc in addition to the time invested in overseeing matters. If funds are very limited, of course this isn't as plausible. But, if you've got huge insurance policies, it can be very feasible. 

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