When you have children, you imagine guiding them through their lives and living to witness their greatest triumphs, such as graduating from high school, finishing college, getting married and becoming parents themselves someday. Sadly, for a small fraction of parents, such a future will not be what life gives them. They will pass on when their children are still young, leaving their children vulnerable to potentially dangerous situations.
As a parent, you want to protect your children and give them the best life possible. Part of that will inevitably involve planning for a future where you aren’t around to provide for them. The individual or individuals you name in your last will as guardian for your child will have a very important position, which means you need to you make the right choice for the sake of your kids.
Having an existing bond is important
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple siblings or to have married into a large family, you may have a number of people who would be happy to step up into a parental role if your child ever needs that. It could be difficult to try to decide which person would be the best option for your children.
Looking at the existing relationship between your children and the potential guardian is a good strategy. Someone who has a loving relationship but is still willing to hold expectations for your child or even engage in discipline if necessary will likely do better for your children in the long run than someone who simply wants to be the cool aunt. You also want to ensure the guardian and your family share values on important issues, like faith or education.
Having the capacity to fill a parental role is critical
Loving a child and being able to handle all of the stress and work that comes with guardianship are two different things. You need to feel confident that the person you name as guardian is either already in a position to offer your children support and stability or can easily move into such a position, potentially if you provide assets or support for them in your last will.
Older children may have an opinion on the issue
You don’t want to fully involve your children in estate planning, as such efforts could easily stress them out and make them painfully aware of your mortality. You don’t want to give your children anxiety, but acknowledging that you have some guidelines in place, including a named guardian, could make them feel protected.
Older children and teenagers may also have an opinion on which family members they feel would be a better fit for them. You can certainly ask and take that into consideration. You should also make sure to communicate with the potential guardian about their wishes and whether they feel comfortable assuming that important role.