Unless you and your spouse want to commit to never being in a car, airplane or boat together until your children are grown, there’s always a chance that something could happen that would leave your kids without parents. Even if you never left your home, there are no guarantees.
That’s why it’s wise to designate a legal guardian for your children in case something tragic were to happen to both of you. Even if you have a large, loving family whom you know would step in to raise your kids, it’s still important to officially name at least one person. That will save everyone the time, money and stress of going to court (and perhaps arguing among themselves) at a time when they should be focused on the children.
Some important factors
Most people choose family members or close friends for this responsibility. What factors you consider when looking at “candidates” is up to you. Following are some things that almost everyone should think about as they weigh the pros and cons of various people in their lives:
- Age and health
- Geographic location
- Shared religious beliefs and values
- Financial stability
- Their own children
- If non-family members, how well they get along with your family
- Marital and family stability
It’s often recommended that instead of naming a married couple, you name just one person in the couple to be the legal guardian. That avoids added complications for your kids if the couple were to divorce. You can certainly name an unmarried person if they’re up to the task.
Make sure your request is given careful consideration
Choosing the person you want is just the first step. You need to make sure that they want the responsibility. That doesn’t mean saying yes with the assumption they’ll never have to do it. It means thinking carefully about whether they want and can handle the responsibility of raising your kids if necessary.
Don’t make someone feel pressured to agree. Give them some time to think about it and talk to their own family. Have an alternate ready to ask if they say no. You may want to name an alternate to your designated guardian anyway.
No one enjoys thinking about the possibility, no matter how remote, that they might not be around to see their children grow up. However, as with most estate planning tasks, when it’s over, you’ll have valuable peace of mind.