If you have minor children and have not yet selected a guardian, you are not unlike many parents who put off this critically important task while waiting for the perfect solution to present itself.
Or perhaps you and your spouse/partner cannot agree on who would be the ideal guardian for your kids.
Here is your solution:
Done is better than perfect.
If you do nothing, the decision about who would raise your children (if something were to happen to you) would be left up to a judge (or a clerk of court in North Carolina, often someone who didn't go to law school) to decide. A judge or clerk (who doesn’t know you, doesn’t know what’s important to you, and doesn’t know your children) would make all the decisions about who would care for the people who are most important to you in the world.
I know that’s not what you want.
And, the truth is…there may never be a perfect solution for you, but there is definitely a solution that is better than your children being raised by someone you didn’t choose.
Perhaps you think the way so many parents do, “if we don’t anticipate it, it will never happen, right?”
But I guess that means you don’t need things like insurance or any other type of protection since bad things never happen to good people, right?
Wouldn’t it be great if that were true!
Responsible parents protect their children. You must think about the unthinkable.
Fortunately, there is a sensible approach to the selection of a guardian for your children that makes the process a lot easier.
First, sit down with your spouse or significant other and draw up a list of all potential people you would be willing to have raise your children.
Don’t judge anyone on the list or even consider whether they would be willing. Just make as long a list as you can of all the people you know who you know, like and trust that your children know, like and trust. It can be helpful if each of you and your parenting partner make these lists separately and then compare notes later.
Then, put your list(s) aside.
Now, make a list of your most important values when it comes to raising your children.
Things like, prior relationship with your children, education level, discipline philosophy or parenting style.
Under no circumstances would you want to consider the financial resources of the people you are considering because it’s up to you to provide enough financial resources for your children and the people you’ve named as their guardians.
Finally, rank your values and compare those values to your list of potential guardians and put each of those people (or couples) in order first, second and third.
ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR LIST, CHECK IT AGAINST THESE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS:
Does your child know them?
Ideally, your guardian selection will be someone your child already knows and trusts.
Do they live close by?
It is probably not ideal to uproot your children from their local community if you can avoid it.
Do they share your values?
You will want to choose someone who can raise your children with the same values and beliefs that you have.
How old are they?
Choosing an elderly person as guardian could mean that your children could lose them too at a tender age.
Do they already have a family?
If your choice of guardian already has children of their own, would your children blend in well with their family?
Are they willing to take on the responsibility?
Hopefully the person(s) you choose as guardian would welcome the responsibility, but not everyone does. Be sure you have a candid conversation with them before you name them as guardian.
Finally, document your choices, legally and clearly. I have a proven process for creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® for your children that covers not just the long-term care of your children, but the immediate term as well. It provides instructions to your guardians and caregivers. And it puts an ID card in your wallet so authorities know you have minor children at home if you are injured while away from them.
Keep in mind that your choice for guardian today could change, and you will likely want to update your guardianship designation as your life and circumstances change.
This article is a service of Jeni Snider, Personal Family Lawyer®. I do not just draft documents; I ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for you and the people you love. That's why I offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love.