Having a baby or adopting a child is a major life event that should cause people to start thinking about estate planning. Most specifically, creating a will to nominate a guardian if something were to happen to both parents. For many, choosing a guardian for minor children is a very difficult decision; so difficult that it prevents many parents from meeting with an estate planning attorney because of the many considerations – both practical and emotional. However, after some careful consideration and forethought, you can make a decision and move forward with devising a will, armed with a peace of mind knowing that your minor child(ren) will be cared for should the unthinkable happen.
The Tough Decision
“We know we should have a will appointing a guardian for our children, but we just can’t decide on whom to choose. One spouse wants his sister and one spouse wants her brother. We are scared of hurting family members’ feelings if we don’t choose them. That person chose me so I should choose that person in return.” All too often I hear these as reasons why parents of minor children fail to have a will. As a new parent myself, I am keenly aware of the difficulty in making this decision. But, there are many factors you should consider which will hopefully lead you to a decision.
Reflect and discern
Take some time to reflect on your values, beliefs, and outlook on life. What is most important to you? Do you want to nominate a guardian who lives out of state or closer to your home? Do you want someone who shares the same religion or political beliefs? Do you trust this person, and does this person have a good relationship with your child?
Consider the potential guardian’s personal situation
Consider the potential guardian’s own family situation, including whether the person is married or has children. How would the potential of having additional children in the household affect that person? Also, you should always consider the person’s age and health.
Have a conversation
Once you have chosen a guardian (and hopefully a backup one too), be sure to talk with that person about whether they are comfortable with becoming a guardian (essentially having custody) of a minor child or children should the situation ever arise. It is a major responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
In summary, don’t let choosing a guardian prevent you from taking action to create an estate plan. Remember that you can change your mind, and you should always review your estate plan as you experience any major life changes. This plan is not carved in stone for the rest of your life, but it should reflect your current desires going forward.