6 Tips for Choosing the Right Guardian for Your Needs

Choosing the right guardian for your children or special needs family member is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. The idea of someone else raising and caring for them is heart-wrenching and naming that person is an uncomfortable reminder that accidents and terminal illnesses happen. They could even happen to you.

Perhaps you are holding off on naming a guardian because you assume that if you and the other parent die, your children or special needs loved one will simply go to a close family member, like their grandparents, an aunt, or an uncle. While judges always try to ensure that guardianship is awarded to a relative, their choice might not be yours.

Here are six tips for appointing the right guardian for your needs.

1.   Who will welcome the responsibility with open arms?

All potential guardians must be people who will love your children wholeheartedly. If you don’t have relatives who fit that description, consider close family friends. If your choices have their own families to take care of, will they open their homes and hearts to your children and love them like one of their own?

2.   Don’t obsess about finances

Your best friend has two kids of her own, one of them a special needs child, and enjoys babysitting yours when the need arises. You know she’d love to raise them if you couldn’t for any reason. However, she and her husband are lower-income and have a smaller home. Does that mean they should be eliminated as potential guardians?

Absolutely not. Adequate life insurance and money placed in a trust can ensure that your children receive a quality education and any special care they might need. FWB can help with that.

3.   Think about what kind of upbringing you want the children to have

Your chosen guardian should share your philosophy and values if they are going to give your children the upbringing that you would have in your place. Are religious beliefs important to you? What about educational and social values? The person you name should be on the same page in all respects. For example, if you value a university education and your brother thinks it’s just a waste of money, there could be compatibility issues.

4.   Consider the spouse or partner

If your preferred guardian is married or in a committed relationship, what are your feelings about their spouse or partner? Would you be comfortable with them raising your child or caring for your special needs loved one if the named guardian died? If not, it’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in your will.

5.   Name a temporary guardian too

Depending on where your chosen permanent guardian lives, it might be a good idea to name temporary guardians to care for your vulnerable loved ones until the permanent guardian arrives. This arrangement is especially beneficial if the latter lives several miles away or even out of state. Your criteria for a temporary guardian should be the same as the permanent one.

6.   Talk to your choices

Guardianship should never come as a surprise. Before appointing someone in your will, have a conversation with the candidate first. If you suspect that they’re uncomfortable at the prospect, don’t pressure them. Graciously end the conversation and approach your second choice instead.

You may think that no one will ever do for your children what you can. Hopefully you will never have to test that theory, but it’s always best to prepare for the unthinkable. To give yourself peace of mind and protect the future of your loved ones, contact Fraser, Wilson & Bryan, P.C. We will help you prepare an estate plan that covers guardianship matters and any other issue that secures the future.