How to Choose a Guardian for Your Child

father showing his son how to throw a baseball

No one could ever love your children quite like you do. But in the unlikely event that both you and your partner pass away, it’s important to have a guardian named in your will (the only place where this directive can be given) who can care for your children in your absence.

Deciding who this special person should be may feel overwhelming, but it’ll save your children, legal dependents and other loved ones a lot of stress and additional grief later on. That’s why we’ve created a list of important things to consider as you make this decision.

As you think through who you’d like to care for your children in your absence, keep the following factors in mind when choosing a guardian:

1. Values and religious preference

If you have strong feelings about things such as religion, philanthropy or even politics that you want your children to be exposed to, you’ll want to choose someone who shares similar views.

2. Where they live

Even a local relative may live in a different school district. Consider where your potential choice lives and if you’d be comfortable with having your children raised there.

3. Financial responsibility

What’s their financial situation? Do they have a steady income? Knowing that they can easily provide for your children can be an important factor in guardianship.

4. Physical ability and their health

Are they older than you, or do they have a health issue that could make caring for your children difficult? If so, you may want to rethink your selection or have multiple backup choices named as a precaution.

5. Family factors and marital status

Are they married or single? Do they already have children or plan to in the future? These aspects can all affect their ability to take on an additional responsibility.

6. Ability to offer similar quality of life

Do you share similar living standards with your potential choice, or will they view your child’s ongoing piano lessons as a luxury? These little nuances can help create consistency for grieving children.

While these elements are similar for most people, their order of importance for you will vary based on your individual needs and preferences.

7. Have a backup

Things don’t always go the way you’ve planned. Maybe your first choice for guardian has multiple children and is unable to take on the extra responsibility. That’s why it’s important to have a backup or two selected to ensure your children will always be cared for.

8. Let them in on your decision

Once you know who you’d like to play this critical role, have a discussion with them. Explain why you think he or she would be a good choice, and don’t be too surprised if they need some time to think the decision over — after all, it’s a huge responsibility.

Also, don’t panic if they say no. Simply move your backup choice into first place and choose a new backup. Make sure to have a conversation with them, as well.

9. Put it in writing and review your choices regularly

After everyone is on the same page — including your children — it’s important to put your decisions into writing by creating or updating your will. Make sure you review your choices regularly and after any major life events in case your feelings change.

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