Six Tips for Naming Guardians for Your Children

Guardians for Your Children

Naming guardians for your children is one of the most important decisions parents with young children can make. If something were to happen to you and your spouse, someone has to take possession of your underage children. Often times this is a relative of some sort. However, if you have not provided any direction as to who should be named guardian, a court is left with no choice but to determine what it believes is in the best interest of the children.

That is, a judge will appoint a guardian to take care of your children until they are eighteen. This judge − a stranger to your family − will have only a limited understanding and appreciation of the intricacies of your family’s relationships and dynamics, whether healthy or otherwise. More importantly, this judge has no idea who you believe should actually raise your children.

This result is completely avoidable. If you name a guardian with your spouse, a judge will typically honor your choice exactly as you have specified, leaving you the comfort of knowing your children will be provided for if something were to happen to you. Now that you understand the importance of naming guardians, here are six tips for considering who that guardian(s) should be.

Six Tips to Consider When Choosing GuardiansYour chosen guardian may be a relative, but does not have to be so. Consider these six tips when naming your guardians:
  1. Do the guardians have similar parenting styles, values and religious beliefs? Ideally, these should be similar to your own so your children will be influenced and taught about life in a way that is consistent with your values and beliefs.
  2. Where are your guardians located? If the guardian lives far away, consider the impact of having to uproot your children to an unfamiliar school, neighborhood, and friends.
  3. Is there a relationship between your children and the potential guardians? A pre-existing positive relationship is crucial to your child or children’s well-being.
  4. How do the ages of the children and the guardians impact your choice? Grandparents are often the “go to” choice for many parents. However, choosing an older guardian may pose avoidable risks. For example, an older guardian may not be able to keep up with the demands of an energetic toddler or on-the-go teenager. What’s worse, an older guardian could fall ill or even potentially die before your children come of age, further destabilizing your children’s upbringing. On the other hand, an older guardian may be appropriate if your youngest child has only a short few years left of childhood and the guardian is in good health. In short, this decision is a delicate balance and should be considered carefully in addition to all the other factors involved. Also, consider asking the children for their input in this important decision.
  5. Are the guardians emotionally prepared to take on this responsibility? It may go without saying, but a married couple with no children is much more likely to take on the challenging responsibility than a couple with a houseful of their own children.
  6. Have you discussed the nomination with your candidates? Your guardians should not be surprised to learn that you named them. Sit down and have a conversation. Ask them if they would agree. Give them time to consider the weight of your request. Give them the freedom to say no without guilt. In the end, obtain a concrete yes or no.
What Other Factors Should I Consider?

While this subject is too large to cover here in this short article, here are a few more bonus tips. You should consider a way to pay for your children’s well-being (from assets, life insurance and/or financial planning). You should consider whether the proposed guardians should be in charge of the finances or whether a third person should be involved to increase accountability. Certainly, trust is the key component in this decision.

In the end, do not be overly concerned that you are going to make the wrong choice. Making a decision is better than no decision. The good news is that you can change your mind and replace or modify your decision entirely. The even better news is that you can rest easy having made a decision if something were to happen to both of you. As always, should you like to discuss naming guardians for your children, we would welcome the opportunity. Please visit www.ogdenlawmodesto.com for more information or call us at (209) 524-4466 to schedule a free consultation. Best of luck in naming your guardians!