Tips for Choosing a Guardian
For those with minor children, the process of creating a Last Will and Testament involves an added layer of complexity. It is hard to imagine someone else raising your children but failing to choose a guardian means that the court will choose one for you.
When it comes to choosing a guardian for your children, it is important to carefully consider a variety of factors before you make a decision. In this article, we will explore the different roles that a guardian plays and highlight some of the important things to think about.
What is a Guardian and What Are Their Responsibilities?
A legal guardian is a person that has the legal authority and responsibility to care for the personal and/or property interests of another person. When creating a Last Will and Testament, those with minor children typically specify the person or persons that they want to care for their children in the event of their untimely death.
Listing a guardian in your Last Will ensures that your wishes for who raises your children are honored. For those that fail to list a guardian or that die without a Will, the court will choose a guardian for them. The person that the court selects is often not the individual that you would have picked. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to create a last will .
There are two types of roles that guardians serve, and they may or may not be fulfilled by the same person. A guardian of the person essentially fulfills the role of the parent by caring for and raising the child. A guardian of the estate is responsible for managing money or assets on behalf of the child, either when the child's parents die or while they are still alive.
There are many reasons why different people may serve in these roles. For example, the child's grandmother might be a great choice to raise the child. She is caring and shares similar values with the parents. Yet she lacks the knowledge and expertise to manage the complex estate left to the child. For this reason, a professional like an accountant or lawyer may be appointed as the guardian of the estate.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Guardian
There are many factors to consider when choosing a guardian for your children. The following are some of the most important.
We all want what is best for our children and have our own ideals that shapes what that vision is. When choosing a guardian, pick someone that you know well and that most closely matches your values and parenting style. For example, if you have certain religious and moral beliefs, you will likely want to place an emphasis on finding a guardian that shares similar beliefs.
Age and Health
Age and health are important considerations when choosing a guardian. You want the person or persons that you select to be around for the long haul and hopefully have the energy for parenting.
Choosing someone that lives nearby minimizes the disruptive impact that being uprooted can have on your child. But if there are no good options and the best candidate lives in another city or state, then go with that person.
You want a guardian that has steady employment and living conditions. While it would be great to leave behind a sizeable estate to cover the costs of caring for your children, it is not always realistic or feasible. Choose someone that has the financial resources to care for your children.
Relationships with Family Members
Ideally your guardian will get along with members of your family - parents, siblings, and other relatives - to ensure that they remain an important part of your children's lives.
More Than One Guardian
There are many reasons to appoint more than one guardian. First, it is a good idea to have alternates in the event the first, second, or even third choice do not work out (i.e., unable or unwilling to serve).
Second, if you have many children, it may be too much to ask of one person. Choosing separate guardians for your children may not be ideal but it may be your only option. Third, you may want certain people to serve in different capacities. We mentioned above that there are two types of guardians: guardian of the estate and guardian of the person. You may want one person to serve as a caretaker but another to handle your assets on behalf of your children.
Determine If Your Choice is Willing to Serve
This is probably the most important factor of all. You want to choose someone that is willing to take on the responsibilities of being a guardian. Talk it over with the person before creating your Last Will. This will reduce the likelihood that the person you choose refuses to serve as the guardian following your death.
If your guardian refuses to serve and you have not named other guardians, or all those named refuse to serve, the court will choose one for you. Heirloom's innovative and user-friendly platform makes it simple to have these conversations by providing notifications to the person named in your Will. This feature also lets the guardian know that you have formalized your wishes for them to serve.
Prioritize What's Important to You
It's unlikely that you will find someone that checks off all the boxes. Decide which factors are the most important to you and make the best decision for you and your family.
Ready to create a will? With Heirloom you can create a will and appoint a guardian in as little as 15 minutes. A licensed attorney will review your will to ensure it is valid. With lifetime access to the platform, you can return at any time to appoint a new guardian or make other changes to your will as life circumstances dictate.