I hear it all too often: “My spouse and I haven’t done our estate plan because we can’t agree on a guardian for our kids if something happens to both of us.” What? So instead of doing something, they choose to do nothing.
This opens the door to a free-for-all for family and/or friends to claim they should be the guardian. A judge will make the decision based on the child’s best interests. This means your sister could be appointed guardian because the judge sees her as the “best choice”. However, she could have different views on parenting and may be someone you would never have chosen to raise your children.
My point is this: no one is ever going to be the parents you and your spouse are to your kids. You need to put that aside and pick someone you believe would raise your kids most similarly to you. Here are a few questions to consider when choosing a guardian or guardians:
- Do they live out of state, requiring your kids to move?
- How old are they? Many people want to choose their parents, which is fine, but I would recommend an alternate guardian as your parents could end up raising a small child into their 70s.
- Are their beliefs the same as or similar to yours?
- Do they share your religious beliefs?
- Are they willing to take on such a responsibility? I highly recommend asking your intended guardian(s) and not just surprising them. Understand that even when you nominate a guardian, they still have to accept the role before a judge during a guardianship proceeding.
I also encourage parents to list all the people they would not want to raise their children under any circumstances.
I’m aware that spouses can be split on this decision, which is the real cause for delay. That being said, your options are coming to an agreement or letting a stranger decide for you. It’s an important decision that shouldn’t be left for someone else to make.
So no more excuses! Schedule a consultation so we can discuss your concerns and any questions you have regarding the role of a guardian…