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What should you consider when choosing a guardian for your kids?

One of the life events that motivates many people to give some thought to estate planning -- at least one element of it -- is having a child. Many parents want to plan for the worst- case scenario that they both die (perhaps in a car or plane crash) and leave their children orphans.

While that's a situation no one wants to contemplate, you don't want your family members having to spend time in court seeking guardianship of your kids or -- worse -- battling over who is best able to care for them. In fact, you may prefer that someone besides a family member becomes your child's legal guardian. By naming one or more guardians for your children, you are taking a vital step to ease the transition for your kids at a traumatic time in their lives.

Choosing a guardian for your children can be one of the most difficult aspects of estate planning. You want to do what is best for them. You have to make sure that the person you choose is willing to take on the responsibility. You may also have to be prepared to break the news to grandparents, aunts and uncles that you aren't choosing them.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a guardian. Below are just a few of them:

  • Will the person be around and healthy until your kids are adults? That's one factor that keeps many people from choosing grandparents.
  • Does the person have the financial resources to raise a child (or children)? You may have plenty of money to leave them for that purpose. However, if you don't, that's an important consideration.
  • Will the person raise your kids similarly to the way you would have? This means choosing someone who shares your values, goals and parenting style.
  • Do you want a couple or a single person raising your kids? Maybe you prefer to choose a couple. However, you may have a single friend or family member whom you think would do a good job.

You've made your choice of guardian, and the person has agreed. Be sure they know what this encompasses and that they aren't just saying yes because they're flattered or don't want to turn you down. Your attorney may recommend that the person sits down with you and them as you work out the details of the legal document(s) you're putting in place.

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