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Don’t Forget Guardian Selection

When people think about estate planning, they typically think of who will get
  their possessions. Upon further thought, they recognize that the most important
  decisions they make will be the identity of trusted decision makers like guardians,
  executors, trustees, and agents.

If the individual has a Will, an executor or personal representative is named
  in the Will to manage the affairs of the estate. This person has the responsibility
  of collecting all the assets of the person who has died, managing those assets,
  paying debts of the estate, and then distributing the assets to heirs or other

A trustee is similar to an executor, except the trustee manages the assets
  of the trust rather than of the estate. Because trusts often remain in existence
  for many years, the role of trustee may be more important than that of executor.

An agent is the person you appoint under a power of attorney to make decisions
  for you in the event that you are not able to do so for yourself. The agent
  under a power of attorney for property will make decisions regarding the management
  of your financial affairs. The agent under a health care power of attorney (also
  known as an advance health care directive or health care proxy) will make decisions
  regarding your health care.

If you do not have a power of attorney, it may be necessary to appoint a guardian
  or conservator to make financial and health care decisions for you if you are
  not able to make them for yourself. In some states, a separate guardian or conservator
  may be appointed for the care of the individual and a different person appointed
  as the guardian or conservator of the property, or estate, of the individual
  during lifetime. You may appoint a guardian or conservator for your care in
  a power of attorney.

Guardians of minor children are “nominated” in the Will by the
  last parent to die. Guardians are “nominated” rather than appointed
  because the courts will give preference to the nomination but are not bound
  by it. If a court determines that the best interests of the child would be served
  by another choice, they need not heed your suggestion.

An example of this is the tragic case of Stephen and Sara Sherwood. Only nine
  days after his return from Iraq, Stephen shot his wife and then himself. This
  left his daughter an orphan. The authorities in Colorado placed the daughter
  in the temporary care of Sara’s sister, Ginny, and her husband, who then
  sought to be appointed as guardians. Stephen’s mother objected and sought
  appointment herself. The trial court looked to Stephen’s Will, because
  he was the last parent to die. Stephen’s will nominated his mother and
  the trial court considered itself constrained by that unless to do otherwise
  would have caused actual harm or danger. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed
  that decision and instructed the trial court to determine which choice would
  be in the best interests of the child. Many states also allow a child over a
  certain age, typically around age 13 or 14, to overrule the nomination of guardian
  in the Will.

While the nomination of a guardian is not a guarantee, it does allow you to
  give the court guidance, which it will use to make its determination. If all
  other things are equal, the court will heed your advice.

The nomination or appointment of trusted individuals to be guardians, trustees,
  or executors is the most important decision you can make with regard to your
  estate plan. These individuals are charged with carrying out your wishes, whether
  in raising your children, managing your assets, or making distributions. A qualified
  estate planning attorney can assist you in making these difficult choices and
  drafting documents to accomplish your goals.

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