The selection of a guardian for your child(ren) is, and rightfully should be, one of the hardest decisions a parent may ever have to make during their estate planning process. As such, I thought it was worthwhile to follow up last month’s article “Pick Me!” with a more detailed analysis of the discussions I have with my clients facing this decision. Before getting into the meat of the analysis, I think it is important to consider the obvious, your gut feeling is usually right.
- Location, location, location. Does your guardian of choice live nearby? Or will your son/daughter have to relocate, change schools, change cities/states? As far as considerations go, the emotional toll of having to relocate after the death of a parent could magnify the complex transition already occurring in their lives.
- Ability. Does your guardian have the ability to take on this new role if something ever happened to you? Are they financially prepared and capable? Do they have the same or similar religious beliefs? Are they physically capable of chasing after your child? Does your child have special needs that require additional support/supervision? While a grandparent or sibling may be a great fit, if other outside factors impact their ability to care for your child it may be important to have back-up guardians.
- Familiarity. Does your child know the potential guardian? How well? The guardian will be stepping into your role as a parent, what makes that relationship work currently? Does your child trust the guardian? Do they have an existing relationship? If the answer is not very well, then it may mean you need to make some effort to build that relationship.
- Discussion with future guardian. Regardless of your selection/nomination, it is vitally important to discuss your plans with the guardian. Do they consent to accept this new role? Adding new family members creates additional emotional and financial burdens on an otherwise stable household. It is always my advice that clients speak with potential guardian nominees prior to listing them in their estate planning documents to make sure the guardian would accept this role. (side note, this is something that should be revisited every so often, to ensure the guardian is still able/willing to fill the role)
The choice of a guardian is often the most difficult decision most of the families I work with will make. While protecting assets is a worthy endeavor and often the first time we consider the importance of estate planning; it has long been my belief that the nomination of a guardian is the single most important decision a parent of a minor child can (and SHOULD) make.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with this decision, contact us today.