Estate plans involve many steps and considerations, but when children are involved there’s nothing more important than designating the person who will take care of them. Choosing a guardian for your children is one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. For some parents, this is an easy decision; but for many parents, it can be agonizing.
Because it is such a weighty decision, many parents put off deciding, leaving their families vulnerable by not having any plan in place. While understandable, this is the absolute worst thing you can do. If you can’t make a decision, a judge will decide for you, and he or she may not choose any of the people you had under consideration. Another likely outcome is that family members end up in a bitter dispute over who should take your kids, making an already devastating situation even worse for everyone involved – especially your children.
With that in mind, the most important thing is to make a decision and document it. The tips below can help you arrive at your choice.
1. Focus on love. Above all, you want a guardian who will love your children unconditionally. Consider the individual’s relationship with your children and the nature of other relationships in their lives.
2. Think beyond the obvious choices. While grandparents and siblings are the first to come to mind in choosing a guardian, those options aren’t the right choice for everyone. Don’t hesitate to consider extended family or friends if their values align more with your parenting style.
3. Consider the guardian’s financial situation. You shouldn’t expect your guardian to provide financially for your child. That’s what your life insurance and assets are for. However, if your guardian has children who have a very different lifestyle to that of your children, this difference can result in awkward and challenging choices for your guardian.
4. Don’t let guilt be a factor. You may think it would kill your mother if she knew you didn’t want her to raise your kids. Don’t feel bad about hurting someone’s feelings because they’re not right for the job. You need to do what is best for your kids – not anyone else.
5. Consider the individual’s values. You want a person that demonstrates the values that you want to be instilled in your children. Every person’s values are different, but some examples include respect, compassion, generosity, curiosity, and self-sufficiency.
Get More Tips on Choosing a Guardian and Protecting Your Family
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