A few weeks ago, I discussed choosing a guardian for your children and listed a few factors to take into account in deciding who should be the best guardian(s) for your children. However, it is not always that easy. The following are a couple of common follow-up questions I get from clients who are still unsure who to name as their children’s guardians.
What if my spouse (or child’s other parent) and I cannot agree on who should be named as guardian?
You’re not alone, but please try hard to think about your children first. Try to set aside any personal hang-ups about any guardians your spouse wants to name. Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Can you imagine the grief, fear, and uncertainty your children at home will be experiencing if tragedy strikes both parents? Think about who will be the best person to help take your children under their wing when they are under that mental state and raise them the way you would want them to. Take into account the relationship between the people you want to appoint and the people your spouse wants to appoint – do you feel there could be a court battle if the both of you pass away?
If you still cannot agree, consider naming your spouse’s choice and your choice to serve together as co-guardians if logistically possible (i.e., if they live in the same city and community).
As a last resort, you and your spouse can go ahead and just name the guardians of your personal choice in your Wills. Just understand that the Will of the parent who dies later simply will take effect. This is common and actually it is no different from the scenario of divorced parents who name different guardians.
Can I name different guardians for different children?
Most parents want their children to stay – and grow up – together so they naturally appoint a guardian for ALL of their children. However, there are some cases where people want to name different guardians for different children. Let’s say you’re in a second marriage. You have children from the first marriage and children from the second marriage. Perhaps the children from the first marriage have a closer relationship with some of the family members out of the first marriage and maybe there’s a more appropriate guardian for those children, whereas the children from the second marriage will have a closer relationship with a different set of family members or friends. In any situation, as your child’s parent, you’re the best person to judge.
I am confident that so-and-so should bey my child’s guardian, but I am not sure so-and-so is good managing money. Can I name someone else to manage the money?
Some parents believe that although the appointed guardian would provide the most stable loving home for your children, but do not have much confidence in his or her abilities as financial manager and dealing with the economic realities of raising them. Consider naming a different individual to serve as conservator, custodian, or Trustee for any of your children’s assets. More specifically, let’s say the minor’s entire inheritance will be managed in a Trust for their benefit. You can name a person other than the guardian to serve as Trustee of that child’s Trust. This means the guardian and the Trustee will hopefully work together to raise your child – while it creates more of a hassle for everyone, it is not a bad checks-and-balance arrangement if you have any qualms about your appointed guardian’s financial abilities.
My goal is to help make as stressful decision as simple as possible. You have many options and please know that you can always change your guardians every few years as your relationships (and your child’s relationships) with people change, grow and evolve.