Choosing a guardian to take care of minor children is among the most difficult and important decisions made by Florida parents during the estate planning process. Neglecting to take this step leaves important decisions that parents would likely want to have control over in the hands of the court. Furthermore, it can also give rise to bitter legal disputes that drain estates and divide families.

Parents can appoint two types of guardians. Guardians of the estate have a fiduciary role and manage the assets left to a minor child on their behalf. Guardians of the person fill a traditional parent role and make sure that the needs of children, such as schooling, health care and housing, are met. Parents can choose a single person to fill both roles or select two individuals based on their abilities and skills.

Parents often choose two guardians as the skills needed to fill the two roles are very different. Guardians of the estate should be prudent and organized as they are required to keep detailed accounts that are submitted to the court. Guardians of the person should have the temperament and energy needed to deal with young children. Parents may also wish to appoint a guardian of the person who shares their values.

An attorney may advise parents to reconsider their guardian choices when they periodically revisit their estate plans. Unfortunately, some friends or family members may no longer be suitable to fill the role if they have moved to a different part of the country, are struggling to cope with families of their own or have developed substance abuse problems. It’s wise to think of the children’s best interests when selecting guardians.