Perhaps you’re not quite sure how to go about naming guardians. Perhaps you just haven’t made the time to name guardians yet. Or perhaps you and your spouse/partner cannot agree on who would be the ideal guardian for your kids.
Here is your solution: Done is better than perfect. Especially for this.
If you do nothing, you are in fact doing something. You are leaving the decision about who would raise your children (if something were to happen to you) up to a judge. A judge who doesn’t know you or what’s important to you, and doesn’t know or love your children will make all the decisions about who cares for them.
Your kids are the most important people to you in the world and I know that’s not what you want.
The truth is … there may never be a perfect solution for you, but there is definitely a better solution than giving a total stranger the power to make the decision about who will raise your children.
Some parents prefer to ignore the possibility their kids may need guardians, hoping that will never happen to them.
So do those same parents forgo things like insurance, seatbelts, or other types of protection for themselves and their children? I don’t know. But I do know…
Responsible parents protect their children.
To protect their children, responsible parents must think about the unthinkable. Fortunately, there is a sensible approach to the selection of guardians that makes it a lot easier to do so.
First, sit down with your spouse or significant other and draw up a list of all potential people you would be willing to have raise your children.
Don’t judge anyone on the list or even consider whether or not they might be willing. Just make as long a list as you can of all the people you know, like and trust that your children know, like and trust. It may be helpful if each parenting partner makes a list separately and then compares them later.
Then – and this is important – put your list(s) aside.
Now, make a list of your most important values when it comes to raising your children. Things like a prior relationship with your children, education level, discipline, philosophy, or parenting style.
Under no circumstances should you consider the financial resources of the people you are contemplating because it’s up to you to provide the financial resources for your children, not the people you’ve named as their guardians.
Next, rank your values and compare those values to your list of potential guardians and put each of those people (or couples) in order first, second, third and so on.
Once you have your list, check it against these practical considerations:
How well does your child know them? Ideally, your selected guardians will be people your child already trusts and has a close relationship with.
Do they live close by? It is probably not ideal to uproot your children from their local community during an already stressful time if you can help it.
Do they share your values? You will want to choose someone who can raise your children with the same values and beliefs that you would.
How old are they? Choosing an elderly person as guardian could mean that your children could lose them at a tender age, too.
Do they already have a family? If your choice as guardian already has children of their own, would your children blend in well with their family, or feel like the odd-kids-out?
Are they willing to take on the responsibility? Hopefully those you choose as guardian would welcome the responsibility, but not everyone does. Be sure you have a candid conversation with them before you finalize your list.
Finally, document your choices, legally and clearly. We have a proven process for comprehensive Kids Protection Planning for your children that covers not just the long-term care of your children, but the immediate term as well, gives instructions to your guardians and caregivers, and puts an ID card in your wallet so your children will never be left in the care of strangers, not even for a moment.
Keep in mind that your choice for guardian today could change, and you will likely want to update your guardianship designation throughout your life as circumstances change.
Make 2014 the year you put the proper protections in place for your family by calling our office to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.