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Selecting the Right Guardian for Your Children: A Step-By-Step Guide

As a parent, one of your most important responsibilities is to provide for your children in the event that you and your spouse pass away. While this is something we certainly do not want to think about, it is essential to select a guardian for your minor children. You must do this in a legal manner that will ensure that the guardian you choose is the person who raises your children. If you fail to legally name a guardian for your children, they may even end up wards of the state. Here are the steps you need to take to select a guardian for your children. 

Determine the Perfect Guardian

Naming a guardian for your children is much like hiring an employee to do a specific job. Just as you would not just grab the first person you see on the street to work in your company, you do not want to choose a guardian based solely on the person’s relationship with you. Before you begin the selection process, it is very helpful to determine what the perfect guardian would look like to you. This will give you a better idea of the qualities that you are looking for in a guardian candidate. Make a list of the ideal traits that a guardian should possess. 

Some things to consider include parenting style, values, religious beliefs, and personality. In addition, you will want to think about the age and life stage of the person you choose. You want to make sure they will be capable of providing long-term care if necessary. If the candidate has children of their own, will they be able to integrate your children into the family? If the person is single, do they have the ability to provide care and give your child a loving home environment?

Create a List of Potential Guardians

Make a list of all the people you and your spouse might consider as potential guardians for your children. You can start with a large list and begin to eliminate those who you feel are not right for the job. Keep in mind that you do not have to automatically choose the child’s grandparents or godparents as their guardians. Instead, you want to think beyond that classification because the job of a guardian is a much more serious undertaking. Discuss each candidate until you narrow your list down to just a few. Keep in mind that you do not have to name a married couple as the guardians. A single person may be the best option in your situation. 

Narrow Your List to Three Possible Guardians

Before you make a final selection, you will want to look at the list of finalists you have chosen. Then, you can further scrutinize your list of guardians until you have the one you prefer. Now you can start to think about the relationship your children currently have with the potential guardians and get a sense of which would provide the best love and support. Think about a person who would raise the children as close as possible to how you would do so. Rank your list because you will not yet be sure of your final choice. It is important to have at least two backup choices in case the person at the top of your list is unable to serve for the guardianship. Next, you will need to talk to each potential guardian. 

Talk to Each Potential Guardian

Choosing a guardian for your children is a two-way street. Not only do you need to choose an adequate person for the task, but the person you choose will need to be on board and ready to take on the responsibility if the occasion arises. Make a list of questions you can use to interview the candidates. Ask them how they would feel about becoming a guardian and find out if they would be willing to raise your children. This is a big responsibility, so make sure that you choose a person who has no hesitation in taking on the task. 

Legally Document Your Guardianship Plan

Finally, you must properly document the guardianship. It should become part of your estate plan. You must put the guardianship details into a document because a verbal agreement will not be binding in this situation. You can make the guardianship part of your will and ensure that it is in writing, witnessed by two people, and notarized. Make sure to tell the person you chose as guardian and provide them with a copy of the will or appropriate estate document. You should also let other family members know about the plan so there is no confusion if the time comes that a guardian needs to be appointed. An experienced estate planning attorney will help you through the process. 

Select a Temporary Guardian

In addition to choosing a guardian for your children, you should also name a temporary guardian. This person is someone who can step in immediately if there is an emergency. Choose someone who is located nearby and has the ability to come quickly to pick up your children if needed. A temporary guardian does not have to be the same person you name as a permanent guardian. The role of a temporary guardian is only to care for your children until they are reunited with their permanent guardians. It protects them from being put into temporary custody of the state. 

Tips for Selecting a Guardian

When you select a guardian for your children, you may feel pressure or obligation from some family members. Let your loved ones know that you understand their concern and will take the time and effort necessary to find the perfect fit for your children. Spend time with your spouse discussing your options with as little interference from others as possible. Remember that it is critical to have a guardian in place as soon as possible in case something unexpected happens. 

Review the guardianship selection from time to time. If there are any changes in circumstances and you wish to change the guardian you selected, you should make the modifications. To modify the document, you must do so in writing, and again, it must be witnessed and notarized. The new document replaces the original. In addition to the guardianship, you may want to provide financial support for your children through a will or trust. Don’t leave your loved ones scrambling to figure out how to take care of your kids in this emotional time. 

To learn more about setting up a guardianship for your children, contact our legal team at View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning at (206) 502-4748 to schedule a consultation. 

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