Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Who should I name as guardian for my kids?

February 2, 2018

Naming a guardian is the biggest thing that brings parents into my office to do their planning. For many, it’s been on the list of things to do for a long time. As a parent, your kids are always on your mind and not having a plan in place can really weigh on you. Heck, our kids are the single biggest reason my wife and I have a will.

I’ve written in an earlier post that the only way to name a guardian for your kids is in a will. Being a parent, I understand that it can be difficult or overwhelming to decide who to name as guardian. Some people only have one option so the choice really isn’t too hard. However, some of my clients are blessed with great families and friends, meaning lots of potential guardians. Regardless of which situation your family is in, here are a few factors to consider when choosing guardians to name in your will:

  • Age.

    This is an important one to think about. Many people immediately think of their own parents first when naming a guardian. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, remember that a guardian will hold that job until your youngest child turns 18. So if you have a 2 year old, you need to add at least 16 years on to everyone’s age. If you have young parents, that may not be a problem at all. But if your parents will be in their 70s or 80s by the time your youngest hits 18, you should at least consider whether they will be able to handle it. If you don’t have any “younger” options for guardian right now, you can consider naming your parents for now and then revisit your wills every 5 years to reassess your parents’ health and whether any siblings or other options have matured enough to be named as a guardian. You can always change your will in the future if needed.

  • Geography.

    Given the option, most of my clients prefer to choose a guardian that is close to home. Obviously that’s not always possible, but it’s definitely something to consider. Losing a parent is incredibly difficult on a child and that trauma can be made even worse if they have to change schools, move to another city, or relocate across the country.

  • Life stage.

    A statement I hear all the time: “I can’t choose my brother (or sister) because he’s younger than me and just not, you know, ‘ready’ to raise kids.” Whether someone already has kids can be an important consideration. Remember how much your life changed when you had your first kid? Mine changed a lot. And I had 9 months to prepare for it! If your potential guardian doesn’t have kids or isn’t married (meaning no partner to help out), inheriting a couple kids on a moment’s notice might be really hard on everyone.

  • Similar values.

    For some people, this is huge. For others, not as much. But consider whether the potential guardian holds values similar to your own. If your religious faith is important to you, think about naming a guardian with the same beliefs. If you want your children to have a particular world view, choosing someone with an opposite view might not be ideal. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s worth asking yourself: “would this person raise my kids the way I would want them to be raised?”

Of course, not everything I listed above will be important to everyone and just how much each factors into your final decision will vary for every family, but as you consider a guardian, spend a couple minutes on each of these.

When you’re ready to get your will in place (or if you want some additional counsel as you decide), contact my firm to schedule an appointment. You’ll feel much better after you get it done!