When you become a parent, you dream of watching your children graduate from high school or get married someday. It can be painful and make you very emotional to think about the possibility that you die before you get to witness your child’s major milestones.
Although many parents will live to see the birth of grandchildren and beyond, some parents die while their children are still very young. In such situations, legal guardians named by the parent prior to their death can assume responsibility for the children and help raise them to adulthood.
The person that you choose as guardian will have a profound impact on your child if they must ever assume that role. What do you need to consider to choose the right person?
Their behavior and personality
You probably know a dozen people or more who might serve as good guardians for your children. You need to consider not just your closest family members, such as your siblings, but also more distant family members, like cousins, or even close family friends.
The most important considerations are not the current relationship between the guardian and the child but rather the behavior and personality of the guardian. You need someone who is trustworthy, compassionate and responsible. The wrong person could embezzle your child’s inheritance or abuse your children. They might also refuse the responsibility when the time comes.
Their willingness to step up for your kids
Failing to talk with possible guardians about your choice could be a major mistake. No matter how good of a relationship you have with someone or how compassionate they may be, they may have something in their life that could prevent them from providing for your children.
They might have a health condition, for example, that they know will continue to worsen in the next few years. You need to discuss guardianship with the people you think might fit the rule and ensure that they are in agreement about accepting that responsibility.
Their age and health
Siblings and other family members are often not the best choices because they could share the same health issues as you or be at an age where they may not reliably be able to take care of your child.
Older siblings in particular could be at an age where taking care of an infant could be prohibitively difficult. Health concerns could also limit someone’s ability to take care of your children, even if they are willing and mentally capable of the task.
After considering all of the factors that matter to your family, you can name a guardian in your will. You can also provide an alternate option in case of some unforeseeable complication. Selecting a guardian for your children is one of the most important steps in estate planning for parents.