Planning Tips for Parents: How to Choose the Right Guardian for
by Alexis Martin Neely
Estate planning and choosing
a guardian to take care of your children is difficult. It's not
easy to think of anyone else raising your children, no matter
how loving your family members or friends are.
Yet, you can make a tremendous
difference in your child's life by planning ahead. And you have
nothing to lose except a few moments thinking about what you
value most in life, and in childrearing. You can ensure you have
chosen the right guardian, by following just three easy steps.
3 Easy Steps to Choosing the
Right Guardian for Your Child
Step One: Make a List of Possible
Make the longest list you can
stand of everyone you know who might possibly be a good guardian.
When considering whether someone
should be on the list, ask yourself, "Would they provide
a better home for my children than the foster care system?"
If the answer is yes, include
Step Two: Decide What Matters
Choose a few factors that are
most important to you and rank their order of priority. Here
are some to consider:
* Maturity and patience
* Do they have children already?
* Religion or spirituality
* Relationship with your children
* Integrity and stability
* Marital or family status
* Willingness to serve
* Physical wellbeing
* Social and moral habits and values
* Availability of free time to raise your children
* Parenting style
Your perfect guardian choice
would score highly on every measure.
But, because we are all imperfect,
you will likely have more success in choosing the few characteristics
that are most important to you.
As you make your choice, consider
that some factors can be influenced by you and others cannot.
For example, integrity is something you cannot change.
But if having an at-home parent
is important to you, your prospective guardian might be willing
to come home to raise your child if you make it possible through
a well-structured and funded plan.
Do not put much emphasis on financial
resources as a factor. It is your responsibility as the parent
to provide enough financial resources, either through insurance
or savings, to provide for your children financially if you are
Step Three: Match People to
Use the factors you chose in
step two to narrow your list of candidates to a handful. Listen
to your body and feelings as you consider each person or couple
as guardian. Using this short-list, you'll need to rank in the
people you would want first, second, and so on.
If you select an attorney experienced
in helping parents of minor children, be prepared to answer the
following question when you name a couple as a guardian:
"If the couple divorces
or, because of death or incapacity, only one can serve, would
you like either one to be guardian, or would you prefer to move
to the next name on the list?"
Guardian nominations can be simple
or as complex as you choose.
Regardless of which spouse's
family or friends appear more frequently on your final list,
it's important to keep both families involved. One way to do
that is to name members of one family as guardians to care for
the children, and members of the other family as trustees, to
manage the assets for the children. If there is a likelihood
of conflict between these family members, be sure to share this
with your attorney so that your guardianship can be customized
to encourage them to keep the lines of communication open.
Again, I know it's not easy to
think of anyone else raising your children. But, your children
depend on you for a bright future. Start planning ahead now.
Initiate the estate planning process. And, most importantly,
choose the right guardian for your children now!