Naming a Guardian for your minor child(ren) is a difficult task. There is no perfect choice because there is no second you. However, it must be done. The alternate to you naming a Guardian is a judge, who does not know you, your children, or the guardian options, making the choice for you.
WHO TO NAME
Remember, the Guardian is the person who will be responsible for your child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Your Guardian should be a person who shares your values and will make the best health care, education, housing, and discipline decisions. Do not exclude someone if you are concerned with their money management or financial resources. You can name someone else to take care of financial matters.
If you are really struggling, consider this exercise:
Step 1: Create a short list of individuals or couples who you would be willing to have raise your children if you were not able to do so. Do not worry about the order of your choices. You are not limited to naming family members. You can list anyone you would want to raise your child(ren).
Step 2: Consider how important each of the following items are to you:
- Parenting philosophy
- Existing relationship with your kids
- Religious beliefs or spiritual philosophy
- Discipline style
- Personal values
Rank these items from most important to least. Then, look at the people on your list in relation to the values you determine to be most important.
Notice that “financial resources” and “financial values” are not included on the list. That is because it is your responsibility to provide sufficient financial resources for your child(ren) through your own assets or life insurance. As mentioned above, your Guardian does not necessarily have to be the one responsible for handling the financial resources you leave for your children. You can name a separate person or couple to manage the financial resources you leave for your child(ren).
Depending on the age of your child(ren), you may also consider asking his or her preference.
You absolutely can name an out-of-state family member or friend as Guardian. You cannot expect, however, that the person will move to your state to raise your child(ren). Consequently, it is imperative to consider your child’s age, activities, and existing support system and the potential impact of uprooting your child.
Be aware that a living biological parent will automatically be named a child’s Guardian (assuming parental rights have not been terminated). A divorce decree granting one parent full legal custody does not mean that the other parent’s parental rights have been terminated.
In these situations, it is still highly recommended that you name a Guardian. First, the estranged parent may voluntarily waive his or her rights as Guardian. Second, family and friends who are aware of the family dynamics and your wishes may challenge the estranged parent’s right to be the Guardian.
ASK, DON’T ASSUME
It is a good idea to talk to those you would like to name as Guardian(s). You, no doubt, view the nomination as an honor; however, some may view it as too much responsibility. You should have the conversation now so that there are no surprises later. And, if someone declines be understanding and grateful.
Naming a Guardian is critical. You can always change the nominated Guardian and you likely will over time as the child ages and relationships change.