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Making the Argument

The Hard Truth: Designate Your Guardians in Accordance With the Law...and Do it Quietly

By Michelle Fulton

August 23, 2004

The guardianship series of three articles is being rerun for our new readers.

The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with legal problems, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances.

Q: How do we appoint guardians of our minor children in such a way that avoids a family uproar? We both have sets of parents, not to mention brothers and sisters, who love our kids and would love the opportunity to take them if anything were to happen. We’ve avoided appointing guardians up to this point because we are concerned about the family reaction once we make the choices. How can we avoid the hurt feelings and bitterness?

A: I suggest a two-prong approach when dealing with this issue. You are correct- the designating of guardians for your minor children can lead to some intense emotions and hurt feelings if not done correctly. Here is an example of a good way to proceed:

First, ask each of your family members if they are interested in serving as the guardian of your children, or as their trustee, in the event that something happens to you. Their answers will allow you to comprise a list of who is interested in what position, if any. Once you know who is interested, conduct an interview with each of them, and ask questions about things related to the raising of your children that are important to you. This way, everyone feels they have a fair shot.

Second, when you have decided who you want to appoint as guardian and trustee, you can name them either in your Last Will and Testament, or you can execute a separate document called a Designation of Guardian of Minor Children. Make sure you name at least two sets of guardians and trustees in case one set cannot serve. Put the documents in a safe place and tell only your Executor where they are located. Do not disclose to anyone in your family who it is you have chosen. If anyone asks, just simply state that if anything happens to you and your spouse, they will know then, but that now is not an appropriate time to discuss the issue. Chances are, they’ll forget all about it within a few days and nobody will be upset.

Bottom line- Subtlety and finesse are important when dealing with sticky issues. The less you say, the better off you will be, and the family unity will remain intact! Best of luck to you!

1. The Hard Truth: What Happens to Your Young Children When You Die?
It May Not Be What You Think

2. The Hard Truth: Guardianship of Minors Is a Serious Issue - Plan Wisely

Michelle Fulton is an attorney at The Fulton Law Firm, PLLC. If you have a legal problem you would like her to address, you may e-mail your request to or mail your request to her at 806 Hwy. 3, Houston, Texas 77058.

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