Choosing a Guardian for Your Children
Determining who will serve as the legal guardian of your minor children is a huge decision. It is also a great responsibility for whoever agrees to be the guardian of your children’s health and well-being. The guardian of a minor is an adult who is legally responsible for the needs of your children until they reach legal age, eighteen.
Appointing a guardian over your children is a legal action. Your children’s godparents do not automatically become guardians upon your death. You have to put the guardianship provision in writing in your Will. The guardian will be responsible for items like food, clothing, and shelter. He/she will also be responsible for managing any assets in the child’s name and for providing things such as education and healthcare.
Choosing a guardian is difficult because of the responsibilities involved. Obviously, you want to choose someone who will care for your family the way you would. However, you also need to make sure you choose a person who will follow through on the commitment. Consider some of the following factors:
Age: Do you want the person taking care of your children to be around the same age as you? How much experience does this person have? Is this person emotionally stable and able to care for your children during the critical time of your death?
Lifestyle: If you want your children raised in a certain religion, what are his/her religious views? Will it be a healthy and upbuilding environment for your children? Does the person have similar ideals as you when it comes to values and child rearing?
Child-rearing skills: Is the person good with kids? Does the person know where to find and seek help as needed? Will the person be able to address the emotional and practical needs of your children that result from your death?
Marital status: Do you want your children raised by two parents? Is the personality and flexibility of the guardian more important to you?
Compatibility: How well do your children get along with the proposed guardian? Do they like and respect this person? How do they act around this person?
Money skills: How well does this person manage money? Will he/she use the funds wisely to benefit your children?
Location: Is the person going to move into your home? Does he/she have a home that is well-suited for children? Is the person flexible to move or take time off work to focus on your children?
You should also consider how much you want to impose your expectations on the people who will become your children’s guardian. It might be a good idea to come up with the priorities you want for your children and a list of people who could potentially be good guardians. You should then approach these people and ask whether they are willing to serve as guardian under the conditions you lay out.
You do not want to name someone without asking because he/she may refuse. Always discuss the expectations and responsibilities with a potential guardian before naming him/her in your Will. You may even want to put these expectations in writing so that you are both clear about your wishes. It is also a good idea to name an alternate guardian in case the person you initially name is unable to fulfill that responsibility. It may be that your initial guardian dies before you or life circumstances (such as health or a job transfer) render it impossible for him/her to serve.