What to Know About Choosing Your Child’s Guardian
If you have minor children, arguably the most important estate-planning decision you have to make is choosing a guardian for them should the unthinkable occur. It’s critical to put much thought into this decision to ensure that, in such a situation, your children would be cared for as you wish.
Evaluating potential candidates
Here are a few issues to consider when evaluating potential guardians:
- Do they want to serve as guardians?
- Does your estate plan provide sufficient resources so that caring for your children won’t cause economic hardship?
- Do they share your values and parenting philosophy?
- If they’re married, is the marriage stable?
- If they have children, do your children get along with them?
- How old are they in relation to the children? (A grandparent or other older person may not be the best choice to care for an infant or toddler, for example.)
- Are their homes large enough to make room for your children?
Keep in mind that a court’s obligation is to do what’s in the best interest of your children. The court isn’t bound by your guardian appointment but will generally honor your choice unless there’s a compelling reason not to. It’s a good idea to prepare a letter explaining the reasons you believe your appointees are best equipped to care for your children.
It’s also important to choose a backup guardian. Why? If your first choice dies, or is unable or unwilling to serve for some other reason, a court will appoint a guardian—and you likely wish to provide some guidance on that as well.
Your estate plan should also list anyone you wish to prevent from raising your children.
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