Choosing a Guardian

For parents, identifying a guardian for minor children is often the most agonizing estate planning decision. The thought of your children growing up without you is heart-wrenching, and choosing someone to care for and raise them in your absence sure isn’t easy.

Here are some tips to help you make this important decision:

  1. List anyone who might be a good candidate.
  1. List the factors that are most important to you and your children. These might include:
  • Interest in and relationship with your children
  • Willingness to serve
  • Ability to give your children love and affection
  • Marital or family status
  • Presence of children in the home
  • Parenting philosophy
  • Maturity
  • Patience
  • Stamina
  • Age
  • Integrity
  • Stability
  • Location
  • Religion or spirituality
  • Cultural background
  • Shared values
  1. Match people with priorities. Remember that no one is perfect.
  1. Reach a consensus with your spouse/ex. View disagreement as an opportunity to learn about each other’s values, try to understand each other’s position, and look for a solution you can both feel good about.
  1. Ask permission. Although you are not required to obtain advance consent, it is advisable to choose someone who will agree to assume this awesome responsibility.
  1. Naming a couple as joint guardians? Specify your wishes if they split up or only member of the couple survives.
  1. Identify a temporary guardian if your preferred guardian lives outside the country. It will take time to travel to the U.S. and officially gain custody. Choose a temporary guardian who lives close by to prevent your children being placed in the foster care system.
  1. Consider a different guardian of the estate/trustee to manage assets left to your children. If your top choice for guardian of the person isn’t good with finances, or you don’t want your ex- controlling the purse strings, you can divide these responsibilities. Choose the best person for each job, with an eye toward choosing people who can get along with each other.
  1. Know you can change your mind. Indeed, it is important to revisit and update your selection as time passes and circumstances change.

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