Choosing Guardianship Wisely: Factors to Consider in the Modern Family Dynamic

July 1, 2024
Jennifer Nichols

As unpleasant as it may be, we all need to think about what would happen to our children if we were suddenly no longer here. Deciding who should take care of your children is not easy and should be carefully considered. Unfortunately, many people assume that the worst will never happen and make a hasty decision—a decision that cannot be easily undone. For guidance in choosing the best guardian for your children, reach out to a seasoned estate planning attorney.

Pre-Existing Relationships

Perhaps the most important consideration in choosing a guardian for your child is whether they already have a relationship with them. Living with someone they already bond with can be very helpful when dealing with loss. For this reason, choosing an aunt or uncle they are close with may be a better choice than choosing their grandparents, whom they rarely see.

Values and Beliefs

Parents sometimes have very specific ideals that they want to pass along to their children. There may also be beliefs or attitudes that they strongly disagree with. You should consider what values and beliefs you want your children to take into adulthood and factor that into who you choose as their guardian. Is the guardian’s lifestyle opposed to the values and beliefs you want your children to have? Will they respect your wishes as to how your children should be raised?

The Age and Health of the Guardian

Raising children is hard work. When choosing a guardian, you should ensure that the person you choose is up to the task. Your parents may be lovely grandparents, but you need to seriously consider whether they can provide the care your children need day in and day out. In addition to age, serious health conditions can also make it difficult to take care of your children. As an aside, you should periodically revisit your guardianship designation if you already have an estate plan to ensure that the person named as guardian is still up to the task.

Financial Stability and Responsibility

Raising children can be expensive. Common expenses for things such as food, clothing, and healthcare can quickly add up. Hopefully, your estate will fund most or all of your children’s expenses, but this is not always the case. When choosing a guardian, you want to make sure they have the financial means to raise your children how you would want them to be raised, especially if you think there may be insufficient assets in your estate to take care of them.

Ideally, the guardian should be financially responsible.  You want the assets you leave for your children to be used responsibly to benefit your children.  However, it may be that the person you think is best suited to raise your children is not necessarily the best with managing money.  You can name one person (or a married couple) to serve as guardian of the person of your children and a different person (or married couple) to serve as guardian of the estate of your children.

You can, and should, also set up a trust for your children in your will.  Your estate assets passing to your children would then pass in trust for the benefit of your children and be used by the trustee to fund their living expenses.  This way the guardian won’t have to pay for all of your children’s living expenses out of their pocket.

Are They Willing to Raise Your Children?

In naming someone as a guardian, you are asking them to possibly take on a tremendous responsibility. People have different attitudes toward raising children today, with many couples choosing to live “child-free.” Before naming someone to serve as guardian, you should have a frank conversation with them about it. Make it clear that you only want to name them if they are willing to serve as a guardian and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to decline.

Contact J Nichols Law, PLLC to Discuss Your Guardianship Options

One of the most important aspects of estate planning is ensuring that your children are cared for in the event of a tragedy. Contact J Nichols Law, PLLC, to discuss your guardianship options with an experienced estate planning lawyer today.