Naming a Guardian for Your Children
Last updated May 20, 2022
Are you, like many parents, overwhelmed thinking about appointing a guardian for your children? Should something happen to you, your choice of a guardian will be the single most important decision that you make for your children. The guardian will take over the day to day aspects of parenting your children. It is the guardian who will accompany the children to doctor’s appointments, attend teacher conferences, cheer at sports games and advise the children about their future. While it is certainly best if you, as the children’s parent can be there to do all of that, it is important that you pick the very best person that you can to do all of those things if you are unable to do so.
Estate law varies from state to state, and estate planning situations can get complicated quickly. If you name your guardian in your will then you will need to make sure that the will is properly executed according to the laws of your state. Low-cost do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) estate planning documents are possible in some simple cases and can be found on our companion site, FindLaw.com.
You may also want to consult with an estate planning attorney in your area for advice on your individual situation. An attorney will help you make sure that your will is valid and that the person you want to become your children’s guardian will be legally able to do so.
How to Pick a Guardian for Your Children
There is no magic formula or single criterion that makes a person the best possible guardian for your children. Each parent will have different priorities and each potential guardian will have different attributes and, for each family, those priorities and attributes will combine and allow a parent to choose a guardian for his or her children. Some potential things to think about when naming a guardian include a person’s:
- Lifestyle: consider whether the person’s career and other interests can easily accommodate a child or whether the person would be willing to make the necessary modifications
- Willingness to Raise your Children: it is best to have a frank conversation with the person whom you want to be the guardian of your children to determine if the person wants that responsibility and would be willing to act as the guardian should the need arise.
- Health and Other Responsibilities: think about whether the person is in good health and physically able to care for children. Also consider whether the person has other children for whom he or she is responsible and how your child will fit in with the group.
- Religion: some people chose a guardian who is the same religion as the children so that holidays and milestones can be celebrated together and values can be shared.
- Priorities: think about your priorities for your children. Some parents consider education a priority, for example. Does the guardian whom you are considering share your priorities?
How to Make Sure that Your Choice of Guardian is Legally Enforceable
Once you decide on a guardian it is important that you document that decision in a legally enforceable way. The best way to accomplish this goal is to include your choice of guardian in your will. Both parents should name the same guardian and an alternate guardian if your first choice guardian is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility at the time of your death. This becomes particularly important if your first choice guardian is considerably older than you, ill or very close to you which would increase the odds of you being in an accident together.