By Amy Feldman

By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When James Gandolfini passed away last month at the age of 51, he left a stunned legion of fans in addition to his two minor children. And while Gandolfini had left a will and instructions for his children, not everyone is as careful or thoughtful.

By definition, an unexpected death is unexpected. But it doesn’t have to be unplanned. In the event that a parent dies with minor children, the other parent is the likeliest candidate to raise the children. But if the other parent is incapable or unavailable – or dies at the same time, a third party guardian will be named – and you get to pick, if you do it while you’re here.

A “full guardian” is responsible for both the personal well-being and the financial interests of the child. But the powers of the guardian may be separated: a “limited guardian” has specific powers over the interests of the child.

For example, if parents are concerned about one person’s ability to provide fully for their child’s needs, they might name two individuals to serve different roles as guardians: a “Guardian of the person” nurtures and physically cares for the child, and a “Guardian of the property” handles the finances and distributes money as needed for the care of the child.

Now’s the time to make decisions because you never know when your screen will go dark.

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