My wife and I are completing our last wills and testaments. We have named 3 guardians for our children in case we pass away (the guardians are in descending order, so the first has priority etc.). We also want to state in our wills our preference that some of our relatives should not be considered as guardians (they were horrible parents themselves and have criminal history).

I have read here (Is it possible to exclude individuals as guardians?) that it is not possible to completely exclude someone from being a guardian but that our wishes can be stated. My questions are:

a) should we include such wishes in the main document of our wills or in a separate letter to the court (obviously, we would share this letter with all of our guardians so that the letter can be brought forth if needed)?

b) which language could we use to state our wishes? Do you have any template paragraph or document? Also, should we document why we believe the above-mentioned relatives are incapable of taking care of our children or just state that we believe they are? Thanks.

  • 1
    The answer to your question is "hire a lawyer"
    – Dale M
    May 22, 2017 at 21:42
  • 1
    What makes you think that I do not have a lawyer? I just talked to one, as I planned to do when I wrote the question. But I like to do my due diligence before meeting with professionals as sometimes they give different answers. May 23, 2017 at 14:09
  • Most states allow what are called "negative will" provisions that state that certain persons should not serve in fiduciary positions. No provision regarding a guardian is 100% binding on a court, but a negative will provision is much more likely to be respected no matter what than a positive will provision (in which case circumstances could change to make a nominated guardian a bad choice ex post).
    – ohwilleke
    May 23, 2017 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


OK, I talked to a lawyer (in Massachusetts) and these are the answers I got.

One can draft a confidential exclusion letter to state wishes regarding excluding certain people from being guardians. In the letter you can explain in detail why you think somebody is unfit to be a guardian. Execute this document as you do for your will and tell your family that it exists so that they can access it if you die (or give them a copy). The advantage of a stand-alone document is that it is not public, differently from the will which is public.

The lawyer also suggested to also have a separate stand-alone guardianship document (and so to not include the guardian section in the will). The reason is that a will can be executed only if somebody is dead. But if somebody is e.g. in a coma (or missing), he won't be able to take care of his children and yet his will would not be able to executed. A separate guardianship document would instead apply also in these situations thereby minimizing the chances that somebody, whom you do not consider fit, becomes a guardian of your children.

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