Choosing a guardian for your children is one of the most important estate planning decisions you and your spouse can make. Without a guardian, the court will choose one for you if you and your spouse die unexpectedly. This is a big motive for you to choose and have the say in who will care for your children should the unexpected happen. These are 10 tips to help you make an important decision.
1. Take inventory. Form a list of potential guardians. These can be a number of different people that don’t just have to be family members.
2. Make value judgments. Consider the values that you and your spouse share and ask yourselves which guardians share them as well. You might not find a perfect match so be sure to pick the most important values.
3. Consider the intangibles. Intangible qualities are a big part of a potential guardian. Is this person a “good match”? Do they have the patience and maturity? Are they loving?
4. Consider age. Factor in the age of your guardian to your children. Grandparents may not be the perfect match for the energetic four year old.
5. Be practical. Be sure to pick a guardian that can support your children. Make sure they can accommodate them at their house and take notice of their location.
6. Don’t dismiss the possibility of separate guardians. If the children are from different marriages, are far apart in age, or have special needs, consider separate guardians that might serve them better.
7. Talk it over. Narrow down your choices and choose a first choice with some alternatives. Talk with them about your decision and make sure that person is on the same page as you with becoming your children’s guardian.
8. Put it in writing. Be sure to put the guardian or co-guardians in writing in your will. In this stage you can also exclude potential guardians, name alternate guardians, and the person who will attain the role of guardian in the case of divorce.
9. Choose a temporary guardian. You should also consider choosing a temporary guardian that can take care of your children in the event that you are unable to do so (for medical reasons, for example). This could be the same or a different guardian as your permanent decision.
10. Be flexible. Be sure to check back on your guardian decision as your children get older because what might be a good fit today may not be 10 years from now.
We would be more than happy to help with your guardianship or any other estate planning needs. Fell free to contact us or comment with questions.
Courtesy of The Estate Planner, Triplett Services, LLC, May/June 2009 issue.