Choosing a Guardian

I found this great article by Alexis Martin Neely and decided to pass it on just as it is.

How to Choose the Right Guardian for Your Children – Just in Case

By Alexis Martin Neely

Nobody wants to think about the worse befalling their family. But if you want what’s best for your children, you would be wise to choose a guardian to take care of your little ones, should any unplanned tragedies happen.

It’s not easy to think of anyone else raising your children, no matter how loving your family members or friends are. But by taking a few moments to appoint the best guardian possible, you could possibly make a tremendous difference in your child’s life.

Consider these three steps.

Step One: Make a List of Possible Guardians

Make the longest list you can stand of everyone you know who might possibly be a good guardian. When considering whether someone should be on the list, ask yourself, “Would they provide a better home for my children than the foster care system?”

If the answer is yes, include them.

Step Two:  Decide What Matters Most

Choose a few factors that are most important to you and rank their order of priority. Here are some factors to consider:

• Maturity and patience

• Do they have children already?

• Religion or spirituality

• Relationship with your children

• Integrity and stability

• Marital or family status

• Willingness to serve

• Physical well-being

• Social and moral habits and values

• Availability of free time to raise your children

• Parenting style

Your perfect guardian choice would score high on every measure.

Because we all have different values, you may want to focus on a few characteristics that are most important to you.  As you create your shortlist of possible guardians, consider that some factors can be influenced by you and others cannot. For example, a person’s integrity is something you cannot change.
But if having an at-home parent is important to you, your prospective guardian might be willing to stay at home to raise your child if you make it possible through a well-structured and funded plan.

Do not put too much emphasis on financial resources as a factor. It is your responsibility as the parent to provide enough financial resources, either through insurance or savings, to take care of your children financially.

Step Three: Match People to Priorities

Use the factors you chose in step two to narrow your list of candidates to a handful. As you consider each person or couple as guardian, listen to your body and feelings. Using this shortlist, you will need to rank the people you would want first, second, and so on.

In doing your estate planning, you will want to work with an attorney experienced in helping parents of minor children. When you name a couple as a guardian, your lawyer will likely ask you the following question:  “If the couple divorces or, because of death or incapacity, only one can serve, would you like either one to be guardian, or would you prefer to move to the next name on the list?”

Regardless of which spouse’s family or friends appear more frequently on your final list, it’s important to keep both families involved. One way to do that is to name members of one family as guardians to care for the children, and members of the other family as trustees, to manage the assets for the children.  If there is a likelihood of conflict between these family members, be sure to share this with your attorney so that your guardianship can be customized to encourage them to keep the lines of communication open.

Again, I know it’s not easy to think of anyone else raising your children. But your children depend on you for a bright future. Start planning ahead now.
Initiate the estate planning process. Most importantly, choose the right guardian for your children now!


About the Author: Alexis Martin Neely is a mother, writer, speaker and Personal Family Legal Expert who teaches parents how to protect their children and their assets.  Now, parents can learn more about choosing the right guardians, plus how to avoid the common mistakes parents make when choosing guardians, at http://www.KidsProtectionPlan.com.

December 19, 2008

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