One of the most difficult decisions that parents of young children (or even older children who are not yet 18) have to make is deciding who would take care of and guide their children in the event both parents are unable to. Many spouses tend to disagree on who should be the guardians of their children but consensus and compromise is important. I get it – I don’t even want to think about this happening to my sons but we have peace of mind knowing who our sons’ guardians would be if anything were to happen to both my husband and I.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes if they were to suddenly be tragically orphaned. Who are they currently most comfortable with? Who do you typically leave your children with if you and your spouse were to go away for a weekend? Your children, depending on how young they are, might not even be able to form their own opinion as to who should care for them should the court have to get involved.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider in naming your guardians and successor guardians:
- Age and Health.
- Location and proximity to your current home, schools, friends, and other family members.
- Child-rearing philosophy.
- Presence of other children in the home already.
- Size and condition of their home.
- Financial and social responsibility.
- Marital or family status.
- Willingness to serve and adopt your child.
- Current interest and relationship with your child.
Not all of these factors will be important to you. Everyone’s situation is unique. Nominating the guardians can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want. You could simply name one guardian to serve if both you and your spouse (or the child’s other parent) were unable to and include back up guardians. Or you could name co-guardians to serve together. Or you could impose contingencies, such as requiring the guardian be married at the time, otherwise a back up guardian would serve.
Name your children’s guardians now and save them the stress of having to be in limbo should something happen to you. Remember, you can always revise your Will over time if you decide to change guardians, which is common because relationships change, values change, people move too far away, or even because people get too old or sick to care for your children.