It can be difficult to plan for the unthinkable, but if you have minor children, not only is choosing a guardian a “must-do,” it can also afford you peace of mind. You may find choosing a guardian to be challenging, but it does not need to be overwhelming. Sit down and consider the people you would be comfortable with raising your children. Once you have a shortlist, ask yourself the following questions about each potential guardian:
- Where does the person live? It is unrealistic to expect a guardian who lives a significant distance from you—and has their own life—to suddenly move into your home with your children. It is more likely the children will move into the guardian’s home, so think about whether the proposed guardian has a home large enough to accommodate your children—and if you are okay with your children being raised there. You may also want to consider how a move could affect your children, particularly if it takes them away from their current school or it puts them a significant distance from their friends.
- Do you know what the person’s religious, political, and moral beliefs are—and are you comfortable having your children’s views shaped by those beliefs? Obviously, you will never find a guardian who holds 100 percent of your personal beliefs, but you want to try for at least similar beliefs.
- Does the person have his or her own children? If so, are you comfortable with their views on child discipline, education, sports, etc.? If the person does not have children, have they spent time with yours?
- How old is the person? While an older guardian is likely in a better financial position and may have more time to spend with your children, he or she could also have little understanding of today’s kids, and current trends. On the flip side, younger guardians may be heavily involved in getting their career off the ground, having little time for children.
- Not only is age a factor, health is a factor as well. While you could never anticipate all eventualities, it is probably not a good idea to choose a guardian who currently has health issues.
- Is the person married? If so, you have to be equally comfortable with his or her spouse and have to determine how stable the marriage appears to be. If the person is single, are you confident in his or her ability to choose a partner you would approve of to help raise your children?
- Is the person financially stable? If not, will you be able to leave enough money to cover expenses for your children? Like it or not, the financial situation of a potential guardian can have a significant impact on your children.
- Perhaps most importantly, is the person you are considering willing to be guardian to your children? It is essential that you have an honest conversation with the proposed guardian to ensure he or she really understands what being a guardian entails and is willing to take on the responsibility.
The things that matter the most to you in regard to your children are as different and unique as you and your family. While you certainly want to name a guardian that will love and care for your children in much the same way as you would, you also want a guardian who is responsible. It is important that you always choose an alternate guardian just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to step in. Finally, consider splitting the tasks of caring for your children by asking one person or team to handle finances and the inheritance of the children (be the trustees on the trust you leave for your children) while another serves as guardian and does the actual parenting.
Finally, do not let intimidation over choosing the perfect guardian keep you from choosing one at all or doing any estate planning. Remember, any guardian you choose is better than not having a guardian at all (and the state choosing for you). And if you are part of our ongoing client care program, you can always change your mind and update your guardians without us billing you for it.
How Family Estate Planning Law Group Can Help
Whether you need help choosing a guardian for your children or need assistance with other estate planning concerns, we at Family Estate Planning Law Group are here for you. We want to help you address your family’s unique concerns in all areas related to estate planning in today’s world. We understand that children grow, situations change, and you should have an estate plan that grows and changes with you and your family. We do this through our ongoing client care program, as well as our Family Care Meeting™, which encourages our clients to include trusted advisors and family members in the planning process. Together, We Plan for Life® Explore our blog, and schedule your complimentary consultation today.