Selecting a guardian for young children is a big decision that can seem overwhelming. An estate planning lawyer can help you understand important elements to consider when choosing a guardian and ensure all relevant issues concerning your children are addressed in your estate plan.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Guardian
Before you name someone to be your children’s guardian, you have to sit down and think about who would be well suited for the job and willing to do it. In addition to the person’s age and relationship with your kids, there many are other important factors to take into consideration, including:
Parenting skills – Your sister or best friend may be great for an afternoon of babysitting, but who do you believe would best raise your kids and care for them 24/7? You definitely want to pick someone who has shown that they are good with kids and can love and care for them as a parent would.
Living situation – If something were to happen to you, your children would most likely end up living in a guardian’s home. Your children will already be going through a difficult time, so it is critical to think about how to make this difficult transition easier on them. Some important things to consider are:
- Where does the guardian live?
- Is the neighborhood safe?
- Would your children need to change schools? How are the schools in their area?
- Is their living situation stable and healthy?
These are just a few things to think about – you know your kids and are likely aware of what the best environment for them would be to grow and thrive.
Values – Choose a guardian whose moral compass lines up with yours. If you have certain religious beliefs, do you want your children to continue to be raised with the same principles? Although someone’s values may not align 100% with yours, it is possible to find someone you respect and trust who will raise your children with a solid moral foundation.
Financial stability – Your children’s guardian does not have to be wealthy, but it is important to think about how caring for children will raise their living costs. This is just one reason why it is important to have life insurance policies. You can also set up a trust, which makes it much easier for their guardian to raise them in a financially stable environment while safeguarding your children’s financial security. Talking to a living trust attorney about your options can help you make informed decisions about whether you want your children’s guardian to also control the assets in the trust as well. If not, you can choose someone else to handle their financial affairs.
What if I’m Divorced?
If you and your spouse are no longer together, it is still a good idea to get on the same page about who to name as guardians if you both pass away. Ideally, you should make an effort to hash it out with your local divorce attorneys and put it in your final divorce settlement agreement. Even if you disagree, you are still entitled to name whomever you choose in your updated estate plan.
Typically, if one parent passes away, the other parent maintains custody of the children. If you have full custody of your children and do not believe your ex can care for your children due to criminal conduct, addiction, or domestic violence, consult a West Chester divorce lawyer to find out what steps you can take to make this clear in your estate plan.
Although you may not want to think about what may happen if you are gone, making plans to ensure your children are taken care of in the event of your untimely death is in an essential investment in their well-being.