How To Choose a Guardian For My Child
It’s completely normal to feel like choosing a guardian for your child is an impossible task. After all, no one can do as good of a job as you. However, it’s important to ensure your children will be taken care of if anything were to happen to you, and appointing a legal guardian in your Will is one of the best things you can do for them.
The guardian of your children would have the legal authority and responsibility to care for them. Appointing a guardian for your children in your Will ensures that the court knows who you, the parent, think would be best for the job.
So, how do I choose someone?
Let us start by saying we understand that it can feel like there is no perfect choice. After all, no one could fill your shoes.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a potential guardian, so it’s okay to spend some time thinking about it. When it comes to immediate family members, there may be a few that you are deciding between. Consider the reasons why each candidate might or might not be the best choice. And remember, you can make changes over time as life changes.
Where do I start?
You can start by making a list of your values, and the values you have for raising your children. Consider things like moral or family values, and religious or spiritual values. What do you see as the most important aspects of your child’s life? And what is important for you about their future? — Is it having a higher education? Do you want your child to follow their own dreams and aspirations? Do you want your child to participate in sports? Do you want your child to be exposed to the arts and/or sciences? What kind of person do you want your child to grow into?
The guardian you choose should share these same values, or at the very least understand what your values are. From there, you could make a list of all potential candidates. They can be immediate family members or anyone else you trust. If you're thinking about a married couple, it's wise to choose the person you would still want to be the guardian if circumstances change (for example, they get divorced or one of them predeceases the other).
For each potential guardian on your list, ask yourself the following questions:
How well do they know your child?
Does your child trust this person?
Does this person love your child and does your child love them?
Will your child feel safe and loved by them and comfortable with their family?
Does this person have their own family?
Will your child be raised with other children?
Is this person capable of taking care of all of your children so that they are raised together?
What is their family dynamic?
What is their partner like?
Is this person mentally and emotionally prepared to handle the responsibility of raising your child?
Is this person financially secure?
Do they have the means to support your child?
Do you need to provide financial assistance to this person to care for your child?
Does this person have a demanding job and would 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 ensure that your child’s needs are taken care of?
How old is this person?
Will they be able to care for your child if something were to happen in the near future?
Where will your child live?
Would this person move into your home or would your child move into theirs?
Would your child 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 and is your child happy there?
What is this person’s life situation and is that what you envision for your child?
Does this person’s values align with yours and are they committed to raising your child the way that you’d like?
Do you need to check with your chosen guardian?
Once you’ve chosen a potential guardian, it’s always a good idea to talk to this person before naming them in your Will to make sure they’re up for the job. It’s a huge responsibility to take care of someone else’s children so you need to ensure that they’re prepared to do so. Explain to them why you chose them and what you’re looking for in a guardian.
If they’re uncomfortable with the idea of being your child’s guardian, don’t be hurt. It’s better that you discussed it ahead of time and now you have the opportunity to appoint someone else.
It’s also wise to name an alternate guardian in your Will in case the guardian you choose is unable or unwilling to take on the role.
It’s better to plan ahead than leave the decisions up to someone else
Imagining what life without you would be like for your children is gut-wrenching and not something any parent wants to think about. However, if you don’t plan for it, your children could end up being in the care of someone you wouldn’t have chosen. If you don’t appoint a guardian in your Will, anyone can apply for guardianship and the decision will be up to the courts.
To make sure you have some control over the matter, name a guardian in your Will. You can also write a letter of wishes that sets out some guiding principles that you want the guardian to use when taking care of your children. This may contain your intentions around education and religion, some career advice, and any goals you have for your children.
Also, you can always change your mind about who should be the guardian of your children. Relationships and circumstances can change, which is why you should periodically review your Will and guardianship appointment to make sure it continues to align with your wishes.
No one likes estate planning, but it’s best not to put it off any longer. Choosing a guardian is difficult, but you will gain peace of mind knowing that the right person will be in charge of your children’s care in your absence.
If you walk away from this article with anything, keep these key things in mind:
Commit to the process
If you’re a parent and you haven’t created a Will yet, consider making it a priority. Things can happen unexpectedly in life and you don’t want to be caught in a situation where your children are put into the care of an unintended guardian. At Epilogue, we have simple pricing plans and we make it easy to complete a Will online.
Make a list and check it twice
Compile a list of the values you have for raising your children and then make a list of all of the people in your life — family members or otherwise — who share these same values. Then ask yourself a series of questions (outlined above) about those potential candidates to help you decide who would be the best guardian for your children should anything ever happen to you.
Talk to your chosen guardian
You need to ensure that the person you’ve selected as the potential guardian of your children is willing and able to take on the role, should it ever come to it. It’s better to know ahead of time whether they’re up for the task or not.
Put it in writing
Once you have a guardian who has expressed that they would be comfortable accepting the appointment, make it official by putting it into your Will.
Review your Will every so often
You can always make changes to your Will, so make sure the person you’ve appointed as guardian is still the right fit every few years. It could be the case that the person who would have been the right guardian for a newborn baby is no longer the best choice in ten years when your child is ten years old. As long as you are periodically reviewing your Will, it should always reflect your most up-to-date wishes.