What Should I Consider in Choosing a Guardian for My Minor Children?
What should you consider when you’re deciding about guardians for your children? Do you designate the guardians in your will?
Yes, you designate the guardians for your children in your will. Your state may also allow you to name a standby guardian in the event of incapacity.
Choosing a guardian is probably the most difficult decision for parents to make and often causes them to put off signing their wills and other estate planning documents. No one can really take your place. Some parents are fortunate in having an obvious choice for this role, often a sibling who they know loves their child or children and would provide a good home for them. But often there’s no perfect choice. The best person for the role may live overseas or be in the military, subject to being called to active duty at any time. You may have total confidence in your sibling, but not feel so good about their spouse. You might want to name a grandparent but be concerned about their energy level. Or they might be in great health now, but what about in five or ten years?
The main consideration in determining who to choose is simply your level of comfort with the various candidates. Other factors include their location, financial stability, health, and availability—whether they are already too committed to their employment, church, civic, family, and other responsibilities. In terms of age and health, you can always name your first choice as well as an alternate in case they can’t serve. Also, remember that you can always update your will and standby guardianship appointment. If your mother would make a good guardian for your five-year-old, but be too old or not a good fit for your 15-year-old, you can always make a change during those 10 years.
With respect to finances, be aware that the person you name as guardian does not have to be the same person who manages any funds you leave for your child or children. It often makes sense to name someone else as trustee over these funds for three principal reasons: First, it may be difficult to find the warmth and empathy you might seek in a guardian in the same person as the clear-eyed rationality you might want in financial manager. Second, separating the two roles provides some checks and balances, as well as more stability, should the guardian have to be changed at some time. Third, both are big jobs, and you might want to split up the responsibilities between two separate people.