For parents of young children, guardianship is a crucial element to an estate plan. Life can be unpredictable, and you want to make sure your children will be well looked-after should anything happen to you.
But choosing a guardian is a process that takes careful planning, communication and consideration. Though not an exclusive list, here are four things you should think about when naming a guardian for your children.
It can be difficult for children to adapt to a new household’s lifestyle and values if they are significantly different from your own. When choosing a guardian, it can be helpful to make a list of your morals, values and beliefs, so you can identify someone who lives similarly. This can ensure that your guardian will raise your children as close as possible to how you would raise them.
2. Financial situation
It’s necessary that your potential guardian has the means to raise your children and meet their needs. For example, those with ongoing or serious medical problems may not be the right choice. Also consider whether your candidate will want children of their own someday, if they don’t already have them.
The age of your intended guardian plays in important role in your child’s life. Younger guardians might not be in a mental or emotional place where they are capable or ready to take care of a child. On the other hand, older guardians might have the experience and wisdom to raise your child, but their age and deteriorating health might pose a problem in your child’s upbringing.
4. Family dynamics
If your potential candidate already has children of their own, it can be helpful to consider how your children will fit in with the family dynamics. If you only have one child, for example, it can be jarring for them to suddenly have several other siblings to contend with. It can also be helpful to look at a person’s parenting skills and whether they have the experience necessary to raise your child in the first place.
Protect your children’s futures
Maintain open communication with your candidates, and ask permission before naming your chosen person(s) in your estate plan. Guardianship isn’t something you should surprise someone with, nor should you assume it is something to which they would automatically give their consent. Just because you’ve nominated someone doesn’t mean they can’t decline–requiring the court to then find a substitute guardian among your relatives and other potential parties.
Your thoughtfulness and thoroughness in choosing a guardian for your children is crucial. When you take time to choose someone who is capable and willing to take on the responsibility of guardianship, you can rest easy knowing your children will be in good hands, even if those hands can’t be your own.