There are few, if any, decisions more personal or important than the ones you make about raising your children. One decision that is sometimes overlooked, or put off for a later date, is choosing a guardian for your children in the event of your incapacitation or death. This is the person or people who will assume your parenting responsibilities in your place.
While this may feel morbid to think about, choosing a guardian for minor children is an incredibly important aspect of estate planning and preparing a will. If you and your spouse were to suddenly pass without a will, it would essentially be up to the courts to decide who will care for your children. In contrast, you could choose someone who you know and trust instead of leaving it to chance.
Here are some things to consider when making this critical decision.
- The values, morals, and religion of the person. It should go without saying that the person you choose as a guardian must be someone who you absolutely trust and whose fundamental goodness is unquestioned. Further, if your children suddenly lose their parents, their worlds are shattered. It is important to consider finding a guardian who can create a sense of normalcy for your children. This means finding someone who shares similar values and morals as you, who can guide and comfort your children during their grieving process and throughout their formative years.
- The person’s lifestyle. There is no one exactly like you, and your search should not solely focus on people who live exactly like you do. However, it is important to consider whether the person’s lifestyle will be disruptive to your children’s day-to-day structure. For example, if your children are accustomed to parents who work regular hours, eat dinner with them, and spend weekends with them, then you may want to think twice before appointing a guardian who spends weeks at a time traveling for work, or who is not consistently home due to work or social obligations.
- Parenting ability. You want someone who has demonstrated an ability to parent their own children well, or if this person does not have children, has the potential to do so. It is important that they have the ability to communicate with children, to nurture, teach them, and to discipline them. It is important to know this person’s values when it comes to discipline style, which needs to be consistent with your values.
- It matters where your potential guardian lives. If possible, you want to minimize the number of changes that your children have to go through. It would mean the world to your children if they are able to continue in the same school, maintain contact with their friends, and continue in their extracurricular activities.
- Financial responsibility. You want your children to be taken care of and living in a stable home with a financially responsible adult. This is especially important if the person who you designate as guardian serves in a dual capacity of guardian of the person and guardian of the estate. This means that they have legal control over the care of the children, as well as over the assets that were left to the child.
- Do they want the role? This is a very important question. Just because you believe that someone is perfect for this role does not mean that they want the job. This is why it is important to honestly communicate your intentions with the person that you choose, and to truly listen to their response.
If you are interested in creating an estate plan or modifying a current one, call me. For over twenty years, I have provided honest, practical advice to clients who are planning their estates. I understand how important it is to protect and provide for your loved ones and will work tirelessly to achieve your estate planning goals. Contact The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas at 847-392-5893 for an appointment or visit our website today.