Choosing a Guardian

For parents with minor children, choosing a guardian for your minor children is one of the most difficult choices to make.  Facing the possibility that a parent may predecease his or her minor child is unfathomable.  However, if you have minor children, these choices are necessary and having these documents in place will ensure that there is a plan in place.

I am often asked how does a parent make this seemingly impossible choice?  Starting with the basics, it is helpful to consider various factors when you are considering who to name as a proposed guardian.  Some of the questions that you may want to consider are as follows:

  •  What are the ages, physical health, and mental health status of the proposed guardian(s)?

  • What is the economic situation of the proposed guardian(s)?

  • Does the proposed guardian(s) have room for the child or children in their residence?

  • Where do the proposed guardian(s) live?  Would your child have to be re-located and change schools if he or she went to live with the proposed guardian(s)?

  • How close are the proposed guardian(s) to your child or children?  Do they have a viable, bonded relationship with the proposed guardian(s)?  How much time has your children spent with the proposed guardian(s) over the years?

  • Does the proposed guardian(s) share your same values and will the proposed guardian(s) raise the child or children in a way that would meet your approval?

  • What are the family dynamics of the proposed guardian’s family?  Will your child or children feel comfortable living with the proposed guardian’s family?

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the items that you will want to consider, but it will help you to start the discussion. 

It is also advisable to name a primary guardian and alternates.  You can also decide to name different guardians for the estate and the person.  The guardian of the person handles the daily care of your child (education, medical, and extracurricular.) While the guardian of the person manages the monies that are used for his or her daily needs.

If you are naming a couple as guardian, you may also want to address the possibility that they may separate or divorce.  You will want to include provisions that recognizes this possibility and names the preferred guardian.

This is not a decision that should be made quickly or without discussing with the proposed guardians.  It is important to make sure that your named guardians are able and will to possibly take on this enormous responsibility.  While naming a guardian is one of the most difficult decisions to make, having this plan in place will ensure that your children are taken care of and they will have stability if the unimaginable happens.

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