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What should I consider before naming a guardian for my children?

Naming a guardian is a significant decision in estate planning. Anyone who agrees to step into this role accepts tremendous responsibility, whether the individuals in need of care are minors or have special needs.

Certainly, designating a trusted friend or family member to provide care in the event of your incapacitation is preferable to leaving matters to a court’s discretion. However, how can you decide who you will ask to take on such accountability for your child?

Three questions to ask about prospective guardians

As you weigh your guardianship options, ask yourself what would be best for all involved. For example:

  • Is caring for my children financially feasible? No matter how much another person loves your children, providing for their indefinite needs will involve a financial commitment. Although it’s implausible to predict the future, is there a good chance your potential guardian will be able to afford to raise your kids? Would they willingly make necessary sacrifices to do so? Or, will your estate plan make trust funds available?
  • Do we share similar ideologies? As hard as it is to think about your children growing up in your absence, reflect on the religious, moral and political beliefs you’d like instilled in your children. Some obvious differences, such as placing vegan children in a hunter’s home, may be easy to identify. Yet, you might need to engage in uncomfortable conversations to learn more about others’ views.
  • Would moving away from an established support system be necessary? A special connection is an intrinsic element of caring for another. However, would you want your children to move away from their school, friends and hometown if something happened to you? Or, would it be fair to expect a guardian to uproot their personal life and relocate for the sake of your children? Location may be an important factor in your decision-making process.

It’s typically difficult for a selected guardian to change their mind after taking on legal duties. Therefore, think about the long-term needs of your children as well as their possible caregivers to make a potential catastrophic transition as smooth as possible.