Who will take care of your child if you aren’t able to do so? That is a tough decision, fraught with emotion and stress. A legal guardian is someone appointed to care for a minor child if the child’s parents are unable to because of death or illness. If you don’t choose the legal guardian for your child, the courts will decide for you should the need arise, and a court’s decision may not be the same one you would make.
Being a guardian is a major responsibility. Here are six things to consider when making that decision.
1. The Age and Health of the Guardian and Your Child – Consider the needs of your child based on your child’s age, whether your child is a toddler or a teenager. Whether your child has any special needs or limitations is also important. You should also consider the age and health of the guardian. Grandparents may be great at being grandparents, but they may not have the energy to keep up with your child.
2. Shared Values – You should choose someone who shares your spiritual and/or religious beliefs, parenting style (or at least as close as possible), social values, and educational values. Your child’s guardian will be instilling your child with their values, so you will want to make sure their values are close to the values you would want to give to your child.
3. Where the Guardian Lives – To say losing a parent is really stressful is an understatement. Relocating your child will increase the level of that pain. Moving will mean losing will mean losing friends, teachers, and maybe even the social activities they were involved in, such as sports in a particular league.
4. Existing Relationships with Your Child – Frequently, parents feel obligated to choose family members as guardians; however, they may not always be the best choice as guardians. Consider friends and families with home your family has a close relationship, as well as the families of your child’s friends, who may be the same families. The aunt or uncle who sees your child once a year – if that – may not be the best choice.
5. The Prospective Guardian’s Lifestyle – You will want to maintain as much normalcy as possible for your child under the circumstances. Your freewheeling sibling may be a great aunt or uncle, but that doesn’t mean they would be good at being a guardian. You want someone who understand the responsibilities of parenthood – with the added stress of not being your child’s “real” parent.
6. Financial Stability – Your child will likely inherit at least some of your assets. Choose a guardian who is financially responsible and capable of managing not only their own money, but also your child’s inheritance, in a responsible way.
Whoever you pick, it is important to discuss your choice with the prospective guardian. There may be legitimate reasons they are unable or unwilling to do so. Let them make their decision without feeling obligated.
Losing a parent is traumatic for a child, especially if their parents don’t have an estate plan in place. The uncertainty until a court decides who the guardian will be can only exacerbate that trauma. Call our office today at 240-638-2721 to set up an appointment so that we can help you with your estate planning needs.