Ten Things to Think About: Choosing a Guardian for Your Child

Estate planning becomes important if you have children. If both the legal parents of a child are incapacitated or dead, the child will be placed with a new family in the absence of other arrangements made by the parents. This can be very hard for the child even if the child is placed with relatives or grandparents. This can be avoided if the parent appoints a guardian for the minor children.

Objective: These are two types of guardians. One is the guardian of the estate who manages the estate of the ward while the other is the guardian of the person who in effect becomes the substitute parent of the child in case the actual parents become incapacitated or die or cannot take care of the child.

Attributes: The person you are choosing as the guardian must have the skills and ability to fulfill the role of the guardian. While your workaholic accountant brother may be a good choice for being the guardian of your child’s estate, he may not be the best choice to act as the guardian of the person.

Multiple Guardians: You can appoint a guardian for the estate and another guardian for the person. Likewise if you have more than one child, you can appoint separate guardians for each child – one for the estate and one for the person.

Values: The guardian should be someone who shares your values and goals. Even if the person is being appointed only as the guardian of the estate, ensure that the person has the same philosophy towards childrearing like you.

Finances: Raising a child is not easy. The person you choose as the guardian must have the financial resources to provide for the basic needs of the child including education. Do not impose financial burden on someone who does not have the resources.

Health: Choose someone with good health. The guardian must be able to see your child through to adulthood. Don’t choose someone who is unlikely to outlive you. Choose someone younger to you or of your same age.

Undue Influence: The decision on whom to appoint as the guardian for your child should be yours alone. Never be influenced by others.

Character: Select someone who is of a good moral character. Someone with a history of alcohol or substance abuse or criminal conviction should not be appointed as the guardian. Even if you do, the court will not approve the appointment.

Consent: Merely naming someone as the guardian is not sufficient. That person must be willing to become the guardian of your child. So before you appoint someone, it is important that you talk to the person and obtain his or her consent.

Writing: Once you have chosen the person, speak to your attorney and prepare the required legal documents to make the appointment binding. Depending on your circumstances there are various legal documents that you can use including trusts and wills.

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