As a parent, one of the most difficult things to consider is the possibility that you could die before your children become adults. In your Will, you can indicate who you wish to be appointed as the legal guardian of your child if you die before they reach the age of 18. A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority to make significant decisions about your child’s well-being, including decisions about health, education, culture, language, religion and spirituality. At the heart of it, this is the person who will take over your job as a parent. This is a significant decision and one that should be made with great thought and care.
We suggest you start by getting comfortable with the idea that there is no “perfect” guardian – no one will be as good as you at parenting your children. Instead, there are good, better and best guardians. Your challenge is to identify who would be the best guardian for your children right now and to stay open to the idea that five years from now, you might make a different choice.
As you consider who to put on your list of potential guardians, it is helpful to keep the following in mind:
- Finances and Housing Considerations: If you have adequate financial resources to provide for your children upon your death, don’t rule someone out just because of their finances or the size or type of their house. You can set up your plan so that your guardian will have access to the financial resources they need to care for your children in the way that you would like.
- The Love and Relationship Quotient: One of the most important things to consider is the potential for a healthy and loving relationship between the potential guardian and your child. Does the potential guardian have the capacity to love and nurture your child in the way that you would want? Will they be able to set appropriate boundaries while staying connected to your child?
- Values and Beliefs: How important is it that the people on your list share your values and beliefs? What about political views? Religious or spiritual practices? Cultural background? Consider what is important to you in the person who will step into your shoes and guide your child into adulthood.
Once you have a list of candidates, you are ready to evaluate the prospective guardians and reflect carefully on each one. It is helpful to consider the following factors:
- Age / Health: How old will this individual be when my youngest child reaches adulthood? Is their health and energy sufficient to keep up with my child?
- Time / Lifestyle: How would raising young children or teenagers fit into this person’s lifestyle? How much time and energy does this individual have to devote to parenting responsibilities?
- Geographic Fit: How difficult would it be for my child to be uprooted from where we are living today? How close does this potential guardian live to other influential people in my child’s life?
- Family Chemistry: How well would this individual relate with and cooperate with other influential people that I would want to make sure stay connected with my child?
- Role Model and Parenting Style: Is this individual the type of role model I want for my child? Is their parenting style or personality a good fit for my child?
With all of these factors in mind, can you identify which one of your prospective guardians most closely matches up with what you’d like to see in a guardian for your child?
Once you have determined who is your best choice for guardian right now, make sure you ask your chosen guardian and make sure they are willing to take on this responsibility. This also creates an opportunity for you to begin the work of purposefully preparing them for this important role.