How to Pick a Guardian for Your Child

How could someone possibly choose with ease the person who will fill the role of guardian for their children? The gravity of the decision is enough to weigh anyone down, and sometimes it’s distressing enough to prevent people from finalizing their wills.

But something that might calm you down is the reminder that you can name someone as the guardian of your children and then change your mind. As long as you are still alive and you’re considered competent, you can always update your will further down the road. This means that if you name your brother-in-law Bob as the person who will act as the guardian of your children and Bob does something to alter your decision in the future, you can edit your will and name a different guardian.

You may have been thinking about awarding the responsibility of guardianship to your parents because you believe they did a solid job raising you and your siblings. While that is likely true, it is important to think about how old your parents will be once your children enter high school. At that point in time, they may be facing their own slew of health problems, rendering them incapable of upholding the task of caring for and parenting adolescents.

Maybe you want to name your parents now and then take the time to consider your choices. That is a viable option, and it never hurts to put your parents’ names down as a placeholder. You could even consider naming them as a secondary option for the role of guardian, which might also make your parents more comfortable. This is all to say that there are options!

Discuss your options with your spouse

While you have many options to choose from, there’s always that possibility that you and your spouse do not agree, which can result in tense conversations. You might want to name your sister, while your spouse may wish to write down the name of his family member or friend.

A compromise could be your best bet in this situation. Consider naming someone in your family as guardian and awarding the role of trustee to your spouse’s family member — or vice versa. This way, both sides of the family can be involved in a way that is feasible and fair.

Another option is to offer the position of guardian to a close family friend as a neutral third-party decision. This is especially wise to consider if you have friends whose children are the same age as your child or if all of your kids attend school in the same district. If that’s the case, then your child would be able to stay in the same school and continue attending classes with their existing friends should you pass away.

Think about the alternative. What would a big move to a new home in a different school district involve? Would your children have to say goodbye to absolutely everything that was once part of their life before you died? Will relocation result in them losing their support system? How easy would it be for your child to make the massive transition involved in beginning a new life in an unfamiliar location?

These can be difficult questions to answer, but it might help to consult your child and get their input on the matter. Start by asking them if there’s anyone they would like to live with and take the conversation from there.

From your perspective, think about everyone you know. Is there anybody whom you would regard as being financially stable enough to afford the increased cost of living associated with housing and caring for your children? Can they take on the additional expense? If it’s not feasible for anyone you currently know and trust, you may want to consider setting up a trust for your children in an effort to help with future expenses in your absence.

Consider your values and prioritize what’s important

Think about the values of the person you are thinking about naming as guardian. Would said individual be able to make responsible decisions regarding the upbringing, educational experience, type of discipline, form of medical care, and religious practices of your child?

If you select a guardian who has values and viewpoints that are similar to yours as a parent, you might find yourself experiencing greater peace of mind regarding your children’s upbringing in your absence. You’ll have more assurance that your children will be raised in an environment similar to the one you cultivated at home.

Someone who is fit to be a guardian will express compassion, conduct themselves lovingly, act responsibly, prove themselves to be dependable, and make you feel that you can trust them. A safe and healthy environment is best for a grieving child. You won’t want to leave the decision to the court system as the guardian-appointing process can be grueling for a child, not to mention unfavorable in terms of the outcome. It’s better to make the decision in advance of your death than to leave such an important decision in the hands of strangers.

It’s impossible to find the perfect solution for this situation because the best guardian for your child will always be you. Just know that you can always make a temporary decision and then revisit your choice of guardian on a regular basis, updating your records as you go.

And don’t forget to speak with the person you are thinking about naming as guardian prior to your doing so. Informing them of your intentions and asking if they are able to accept the responsibility you wish to trust them with is key.

This is an important conversation that will allow them to prepare emotionally. That way, they’ll be better able to prioritize your children when the time comes for them to step in as guardian. While it’s never easy to prepare for your children’s lives after your death, selecting a guardian for your kids is one of the most selfless acts of love you can make, both for your children’s sake and yours.

Make sure you speak with an attorney and seek legal assistance as you go about crafting the necessary documents to declare your choice of guardian.

Reach out to Roz Carothers and her team at Triplett & Carothers to learn more.