How to choose a guardian for your children

Choosing a legal guardian for your children is something all parents should consider. A legal guardian is an individual or individuals who will care for your child in the event that you and your spouse pass away or become incapacitated. Planning for the unexpected will ensure that your children are protected if you can’t be there for them. Here are some things to consider when deciding who should be your children’s legal guardian:


What relationship does the potential guardian have with your children?

If you were to die or become incapacitated, you’ll want to know that your children are in the care of someone with whom they are comfortable.

Who is willing to take on the responsibility?

Not everyone you love and trust in your family is in a position to take on the responsibility of raising your children. Consider someone who has the emotional capacity to care for another person, in addition to his or her existing family.

Do I need to consider age and health?

Considering who is age appropriate and healthy enough to raise children is one way to ensure that your children are cared for properly. 

Who appreciates your value system?

You have a vision of how you want your children to develop, progress, and live their lives. Be sure that the guardians you choose share this vision.

Where does the potential guardian live?

You might want to consider choosing a guardian close to home so that your children’s lives and their routines can remain as normal as possible.

Who has the resources?

Raising children is a large financial commitment. Aside from making sure that all of your finances are in order and that you have purchased adequate life insurance to ensure that your children are properly provided for, you should also elect a guardian who is fiscally responsible and has appropriate resources to support your children.

Do you and your spouse agree?

Try to come to a joint decision when choosing a guardian for your children, so that both you and your spouse can feel comfortable knowing that you are well prepared for the unexpected.

Do I need to get the guardian’s approval?

Once you have selected a guardian for your children, make sure to discuss your wishes with the preferred guardian before making the final election. You want to make sure that the potential guardian understands your expectations. Provide the opportunity for the potential guardian to ask questions or decline. You want to make sure that your elected guardian is not surprised in the event of a tragedy.

What happens if I don’t pick a legal guardian?

 If you do not assign a legal guardian, the caretaker for your children will be determined by a judge—even if you have made your wishes known to your family.

How do I make my choice official?

You should contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning to draft a will for you, which should include a clause that appoints a guardian for any minor children.   Once the will is signed and finalized, the guardianship election becomes official.

How often should I review my choice?

You should re-evaluate your choice of guardian, estate planning and life insurance coverage as needed to ensure that your children’s future is well protected. You may find that you need to adjust the amount of your life insurance or add assets to your will.  You may also want to change the guardian you have chosen in the event that the guardian predeceases you or is no longer a part of your children’s lives. The terms of your will should be examined at least once a year.

Choosing a legal guardian for your children should be a priority—plan now to protect their future.

Sources

Attorneys.com, “Considerations for Choosing Your Children’s Guardians,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.attorneys.com/child-custody/considerations-for-choosing-your-childrens-guardians/.

EstatePlanning.com, “How to Pick a Legal Guardian for Your Children,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.estateplanning.com/post/?post_id=221.

NBC News, “Many parents delay choosing a guardian for their kids,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32223045/.

NPR, “12 Ways to Protect Your Children’s Future,” accessed January 10, 2014, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5623663.

SLPC 25544 12/15 (exp. 12/17)

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