Selecting a Guardian
If you have minor children, the most important reason to plan your estate is to ensure proper provisions are made for your children. When selecting a guardian, consider the following:
Who would be the best guardian for your children?
While your first inclination may be to select your parents, consider whether they will have the energy to raise your children. A better alternative may be a sibling or friend. One of your most important considerations will be whether you think that individual will be able to raise your child like one of their own. If you have several children, is it reasonable to expect one person to raise all of them? You may want to name more than one guardian, but make sure the guardians will work together to keep the children as close as possible. If the person you are considering lives in another city or state, consider whether you want to uproot your children while they are going through the trauma of their parents’ death. Make sure you’re comfortable with the guardian’s parental style and moral beliefs.
Have you talked to your selected guardian?
Once you’ve settled on a guardian, discuss your decision with that person to make sure he/she is willing to take on the responsibility. Be sure to name a contingent guardian in case your first choice is unable to serve. Discuss your wishes regarding how you want your children raised, indicating your preferences for education, religion, lifestyle, and other factors.
Have you made adequate financial arrangements for your children?
You wouldn’t want your children to be a financial burden, or their presence may be resented. Determine how much is needed for living expenses, hobbies, medical expenses, and college. Consider other items as well. For instance, will your guardian’s home comfortably accommodate your children, or should you leave funds for an addition to the home? Include a financial cushion so there is plenty of money until your children at least reach adulthood. Should the person who has physical custody also handle their finances? You can name two guardians, one for physical custody and one to handle their finances. Decide whether trusts should be set up and how money should be distributed when your children reach adulthood.
Have you reviewed your choice of guardian recently?
Just because you’ve selected a guardian doesn’t mean that person is still the best choice. As your children grow, review your guardian choice every couple of years.