If you’re like most people, you aren’t eager to spend time thinking about what would happen if you became unable to direct your own medical care because of illness, an accident, or advanced age. However, if you don’t do at least a little bit of planning — writing down your wishes about the kinds of […]
Choosing your child's guardian is the hardest and most important decision you'll ever make. The thought of someone other than you raising your child is gut wrenching. The worst part about it? You'll never be fully comfortable with the choice, because no one can do as good a job as you. You love your sister, [...]
Choosing your child’s guardian is the hardest and most important decision you’ll ever make. The thought of someone other than you raising your child is gut wrenching. The worst part about it? You’ll never be fully comfortable with the choice, because no one can do as good a job as you. You love your sister, but her children are a bit wild. Your cousin is amazing, but his politics are way out there. There is no perfect choice for your child’s guardian, besides you. However difficult it may be, naming a guardian is a crucial step as a parent. Some people think that their children will go to the closest family member if they die. Not always true. If you die tomorrow, anyone can come forward and make a case for guardianship. It is ultimately up to a judge to determine who will raise your children. So sit down with your spouse, get a cup of coffee (better yet, wine), and get started with the below steps.
1: List out your values for raising your children. Consider moral values, such as kindness and generosity, as well as religious and spiritual values. What do you want for your child? Is ensuring your child has a top education most important? Do you want your child to be able to express himself and follow his passions? Is exposure to the arts and other cultures essential? Although no one will be a perfect match, the guardian you choose should share similar values as you.
2: Based on these values, make a list of all possible candidates. Don’t just limit this to immediate family; include friends and extended family as well. Choose singular people, not couples, as guardians. Things change and people get divorced; you don’t want them to then determine custody of your child. For each person, ask yourself these questions:
- Are they capable of taking care of your child? Are they financially stable? Emotionally and physically healthy?
- What would your child’s day to day life look like? Picture their life. Do they fit into the family? Are they happy? Is it similar to the life they know?
- Who would raise the child? You may list your brother as guardian, but maybe his wife is the one actually raising the kids.
- What is their current family structure? Will they be raised with other children? What is their partner like?
- Where are they located? Is it close to other friends or family members?
- Most importantly: Do they love your children? I mean, really love them. Do your children love them and feel comfortable with their family? If the worst happens and your child goes to this guardian, will they feel safe and loved?
3: Once you choose your guardian, ask them permission. Make sure they are comfortable with the decision, talk about how this addition would affect their family, and what the new family would look like. Discuss your values and the hopes you have for your child’s future.
4: Make it official by putting it in your will. This is the hardest part because it feels so final, and often the thought of creating a will is overwhelming. However sites like LegalZoom have made it incredibly easy to create a will. Also keep in mind you can change the guardians at any time. What is best for them now may not be best for them in five years. The most important thing is to pick someone!