How to choose a guardian for your children - 10 tips to help make this decision

Naming Guardians For Your Children: 10 Criteria to Help Clarify This Most Important Decision

child photo
child photo

1. Relatives:  In considering such an important decision - look beyond the most obvious choices. Make a list of all the people you know who you would trust to take care of your children. You don't need to limit your list to close family members. While siblings and parents can be excellent choices, consider also extended family members who are old enough to raise your children - cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews.

2.  Friends:   can make excellent guardians as well -so to the above list, consider adding close friends, the parents of your children's friends (who most likely have quickly become your friends, as well), even teachers or child care providers with whom you and your children have a special relationship.

3. Financials:   Don't overemphasize the size of someone's home. Don't eliminate anyone from consideration because you don't think they have the finances to take care of your children. You should be able to take care of the expenses associated with raising your children through appropriate life insurance.  In fact, if necessary, you can instruct your trustee to provide funds for your chosen guardian to build an addition to their home or move to a larger home to accommodate your children.

4.  Nurturing Environment:  Ask yourself who will provide the most loving, nurturing, supportive environment for your kids.  Consider who on your list would truly love your children if appointed their guardian. If they have children of their own, how will your children fit in with family?   Who do you see your child with - day in and day out - back and forth to school, summer holidays, sports events, doctors appointments, hugs, etc.

5.  Values. Ask yourself who on your list most closely shares your values with respect to your religious beliefs, moral values, child-rearing philosophy, educational values, and social values.

6. Practical considerations.  How would raising children fit into their lifestyle?

--If someone you are considering is older, do they have the necessary health and energy?

--Do they have other children? How would your children get along with theirs?  How close do they live to other important people in your children's lives.

--If a couple divorced, or one person died, would you be comfortable with either of them acting as the sole guardian? If not, you need to specify what you would want to happen.

7.  There is no such thing as "perfect."  Most likely, no one on your list will seem perfect, but if you truly consider what matters to you most, you will make the right choice. Trust your instincts. If one couple or person meets all of your criteria, but doesn't feel right, don't choose them. By the same token, if someone feels much more right than any of the others on your list, there's a good reason for it. Make your primary choice and a secondary choice. It's essential that both you and your spouse agree.

8.  Consider selecting a temporary as well as a permanent guardian. Temporary guardians may be appointed if both parents become temporarily unable to care for their children - for example, as the result of a car accident. Depending on your choice for permanent guardians, you may want to designate different people to act as temporary guardians. If your choice for a permanent guardian lives a considerable distance away, choose someone close by to serve as temporary guardian. If you're temporarily disabled, you'll want your children close by. And you won't want their lives unnecessarily disrupted by moving them to a new town and school. If you have no relatives or close friends nearby, consider families of your children's friends.

9.  Talk with everyone involved. If your children are old enough, talk with them to get their input as well. And be sure to confer with the people you'd like to choose, to ensure they're willing to be chosen and would feel comfortable acting as guardians.

10.  Follow through. Once you've made your choice, there are steps you can take to make sure the potential guardians you've chosen will have the guidance and support they need.

--Create a set of guidelines to convey information about your children, your parenting values and your expectations for your children.

--Make sure your estate planning is complete and that you will have the funds to provide for your children's care in trust. This also enables you to set out the terms of the trust in advance (at what ages money should be distributed and for what expenses).

--Keep your guardian choice up to date - if something changes in regards to your choices  - make sure your documents are updated.

I hope this information helps clarify this most important decision.   The most important thing to remember really is that if you don't make this decision  - someone else may end up trying to decide this for your children - for you.