How To Ask Someone To Be Your Child’s Guardian
Appointing someone as your child’s guardian in your Will is a big decision. After all, there is a chance that they could end up taking care of your child one day, so you want to be sure that you’ve made the best choice.
Choosing someone is likely the hardest part, but it is just as critical to talk to this person about your desire to make them your child’s legal guardian. After all, you need to make sure that this person is willing and able to take on the responsibility of caring for your child.
How to choose
In narrowing down the “perfect” guardian for your children, it is important that you make sure you share the same values about family and raising children. The easiest way to do this is to write down a list of your values — consider things like morals, family values, and religious/spiritual values. Think about what you see as the most important aspects of your children’s life — is it having higher education, participating in sports, exposure to the arts or sciences, following their dreams and aspirations, or maybe all of the above?
Once you’ve compiled a list of your values, create a list of potential guardians. They can be immediate family members or anyone else you trust could fill this important role.
Questions for potential guardians
For each candidate on your list, ask yourself the following questions:
Questions about their relationship with your children
How well do they know your children?
Do your kids trust this person?
Does this person love your children and do your children love them?
Will your children feel safe and loved by them and comfortable with their family?
Questions about their home life
Does this person have their own family? Will your kids be raised with other children?
Is this person capable of taking care of all of your kids so that they are raised together?
What is their family dynamic?
Do they have a partner, and if so, what is their partner like?
Questions about their financial, physical, and emotional health
Is this person mentally and emotionally prepared to handle the responsibility of raising your children?
Is this person financially secure? Do they have the means to support your child?
Do you need to provide financial assistance to this person for your kid’s care?
What is this person’s work situation? Do they have a demanding job?
Will they be able to juggle a career as well as a family?
Will this person cooperate with the people you’ve named as the executors of your estate to make sure that your child’s needs are taken care of?
How old is this person?
Will they be able to care for your children if something were to happen in the near future?
Where will your kids live?
Will this person move into your home or will your kids move into theirs?
Will they live close to family and friends?
What would your child’s daily life look like? Try to picture it. Does your child fit into the guardian’s family? Are they happy?
Is your kid’s life similar to the one you’ve given them?
Do this person’s values align with yours? Are they committed to raising your child the way that you want?
Once you’ve found answers to all these questions… Congratulations! You’ve done the heavy lifting and narrowed it down to the most suitable candidate.
Now you need to ask that person if they would be comfortable becoming your child’s legal guardian if you pass away. You wouldn’t want this to come as a surprise to them.
Seems like an awkward conversation, right? Well, there are certain ways you can approach it to make it feel less awkward.
How to have “the conversation” with your selected guardian
You may want to start by telling the chosen guardian that you are in the process of making your Will, or maybe that you've already made it. There are all kinds of reasons for creating a Will, and you can spell some of them out. Was it simply the desire to protect yourself and your loved ones? Or maybe something happened recently to one of your family members or friends that made you realize how important it is to prepare for the unknown. Sharing your reason with your chosen guardian would give them some context.
Next, explain why you chose them. Tell them why you think they would be a good parent for your child if anything were to happen to you. You may also want to share your list of values to make sure they’re on the same page when it comes to raising your child.
If they ask for more information, take this as a good sign. It means they’re taking your request seriously and that they understand the gravity of the responsibility of caring for your child in your absence.
If you’re feeling really nervous about it, it might be reassuring to know that although it is a difficult conversation to have, it is also one really big compliment to the person you’ve chosen. It tells them that you have enough love, trust, and belief in who they are that you would pick them for this ever-important role.
Another aspect to consider when picking someone as a legal guardian is whether this person has the financial means to support your child. It’s essential to think about the cost of raising children and how much money you would leave to the guardian of your kids. Also, do you plan on leaving an inheritance for your kids to have once they reach the age of majority (or another age you specify in your Will)?
You may want to initiate a conversation on finances when speaking with your chosen guardian and outline to them the steps you’ve taken to make sure your child is taken care of financially. This will reduce the financial burden on the guardian and put them at ease.
Express your concerns
No guardian is ever going to be a perfect choice. If there is anything about this person’s life that causes you concern, be honest with them. For instance, if the chosen guardian already has four kids of their own and you’re worried about them taking on your two kids, ask them how they would manage all six kids. Or if this person lives across the country and you’re worried about your child having to move there, bring it up.
Give it time
As much as it was a big decision for you to choose a guardian, it is also a big decision for the guardian. Agreeing to a guardianship appointment could lead to great responsibility, so it’s only fair if the person needs more time to think about it. Don’t be offended if they don’t immediately say yes. Let them have some time to think it over and get back to you with questions.
Have a plan B
There is a chance that the person you selected may not want to take on the role. There can be many reasons for this and if it happens, try not to be offended. It’s better that you had the conversation ahead of time and found this out before putting them in your Will.
Even if your first choice tells you that they will accept the job, it is still a good idea to have a backup guardian in your Will. This way if your primary guardian is unable or unwilling to take on the appointment when the time comes, you’ve identified someone else who you think would be able to handle the responsibility.
Review your Will regularly
Circumstances for you or your chosen guardian may change, which is why it is important to review your Will periodically and reassess the people you’ve selected as primary and secondary guardians.
Understanding that you can, and should, review your Will regularly, it’s best to choose whoever you think would be the best person for the job right now. As your child gets older or if the guardian you selected no longer feels like the right choice, you can change your Will so it reflects your new wishes.
Whatever you do, face the conversation head-on
While this may seem daunting, choosing a guardian for your child and confirming with them that they would be capable of taking on this role — should the time ever come — will give you the reassurance that your child will be cared for by someone you trust. Setting your expectations with the guardian will help them immensely and doing this will also give you peace of mind.
It’s worthwhile to put in the time now to do the work and have the conversation — no matter how uncomfortable you may feel about it.