Aug 22

A Client’s Perspective: Picking a Guardian for Your Child – What to Consider

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Butcher Elder Law is pleased to share an article written by one of our clients. The client is a parent who shares her personal process for picking the Guardian for her child.

 

Picking a Guardian for Your Child – What to Consider

Nearly 6 months after having our first son, my husband suggested we work with a financial planner to better strategize college savings and retirement planning. (We were only 31 at the time, but it seemed like a good idea.)

Shortly into the questions that supported the planning, we were asked “Who do you want to have as a legal guardian of your son if something happens to you both?”

The question stopped me in my tracks. Looking down at my infant son resting soundly in his carrier, my stomach dropped at the thought that something could happen and he would be without us. To that point, I had only been consumed with what could happen to him.

That challenging question turned out to be the most important decision we may have ever made and provided the most peace of mind.

Fortunately, we had the time to think and talk about all the scenarios. We talked at length about what we found most important in selecting a legal guardian.

 

Our top 5 considerations for picking a legal guardian:

  • Parenting strategies – We wanted to pick guardians that shared our same beliefs and ideals when it came to raising children.
  • Location – Our family is for the most part centrally located. It was important for our son to maintain his relationships with all of his family. Likewise, it was important for us that our son’s guardians had built-in support from grandparents, uncles and aunts.
  • Disposition: Faith was not a huge factor in our decision. What we were most concerned about was someone’s ability to handle stress and maintain a clear head. Raising children is tough at any age and it was important to us that whoever took over raising our child could handle stressful situations calmly.
  • Money – While we weren’t concerned about there being enough money for our son if we passed away, we did think about how the selected guardian handles money as they would be receiving distributions to manage for our child’s care.
  • Future Plans – Life happens and things change. While we couldn’t plan for every possible scenario, we did consider the career and travel aspirations of our selected potential guardians. We did not want the guardian of our son to feel burdened by giving up their goals in an effort to raise our child.

 

The legal guardian selection process was challenging and made for a few sleepless nights while we were theorizing what would happen if something happened to both of us. It is hard to struggle with your own mortality at such an early age or to imagine if we were not there for our children as they grew up.

But once we made the decision, it felt like a calm came over our home. Just because we decided what would happen in the worst case did not mean the worst case would in fact happen. But if it did, we knew there was no room for confusion and that there was a legal plan for our wishes would be upheld.

After making our decision, it was time to have that conversation with our selected family and to give them the time and space to think about what that meant for their family. This guide from Parents on How to Raise the Question of Legal Guardianship can be helpful for initiating your conversation.

While we were mutually happy with the guardians we selected, we did choose another family member to oversee the allocation of trust funds as the executor of our will.

We have since had another child and updated our will and guardianship accordingly. And though we made a decision on legal guardianship in the event of our death, we also kept in mind that plans can change. But if something were to happen today, we know for certain our children will be in the best possible position to grow up happy and healthy with people who love them and share our parenting values.