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Why Should You Consider Naming a Guardian for Your Children?

As parents, we want to be around well into our children’s later years. We want to watch them grow and become the people they will become, as they possibly have and raise their own children. Or, at the very least, as they settle down with a few pets we can visit.

But the stark reality is that there is a possibility something could keep that from happening. If you pass or are rendered unable to care for your children while they are too young to care for themselves, a drastically different future could await them.

Proper prior planning can help parents protect the people they love. Setting up a guardian to care for your children when you’re gone can be a straightforward process. It’s just necessary for every parent to put it in place.

What Should You Look for in a Potential Guardian for Your Children?

First, there’s the issue of deciding who you would entrust your children with if you could not care for them yourself. Consider your family unit or your friend circle. Which person is the most likely to take that responsibility up for themselves, unprompted? That’s likely the person who will nominate themselves after you’re gone. Is that the person you’d want? Would the rest of the family/friend group agree? Who would a judge pick? Is THAT who you’d like to raise your children? When choosing a guardian for your children, you must consider all aspects of your value system. Who in your circle of trusted adults shares the most similar values to yours?

Don’t age the children or guardians up when deciding. You can reassess down the road who can guard your children THEN. First, determine who should protect them NOW and for the next 2 to 3 years. Afterwards, you can continue to revisit your decision as needed.

Now That You’ve Picked a Person (or People), How Do You Put Guardianship in Place?

Now it’s time to name the guardian. First, be certain to ask the person/persons if they would accept the responsibility of raising your children. That’s not exactly something you want to spring on someone unprompted. Then, document everything. The goal is to have the most information possible included in the documentation. Create living wills, final testaments, and anything else with your attorney to ensure that what you intend happens concerning your children.

What Are Some Mistakes to Avoid in Naming a Guardian?

  • Not naming a temporary guardian: If your permanent guardian is distant, name a temporary guardian who lives in your area until the permanent guardian can become situated.
  • “I’m afraid I’ll hurt _____’s feelings”: Nothing should keep you from choosing the permanent guardian that you feel will be best for your children. Bluntly, it’s beyond feelings. It’s what’s best for the children.
  • Not naming an alternative: At least have one or two backups. If there’s a line of succession for the presidency, your children deserve one too.
  • Choosing based on money: Choose based on values; if you’re worried about your children not having enough money to get through without you, get a life insurance policy that will provide what you feel is appropriate.
  • Not updating your choice: Review every few years. Situations change; the best guardian for your children may, too.
  • Leaving the guardian with no guidance: Let the guardian know what you want for your children. They won’t automatically intuit your wishes.

If this guide still leaves you with questions concerning guardianship, call our law office for more consultation: (805) 244-5291

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Estate Planning Attorney Eric Ridley