How to Name a Guardian for Your Children
By Katherine at Legal Language
Posted on 10/04/2010
In Family Law
While it seems as though choosing a guardian for your children may be difficult, it’s actually a fairly easy process — and it’s one of the most important decisions you can make on behalf of your family.
Selecting a Guardian: How & Why?
Parents should consider naming a guardian for their children in case they are unable to care for them any longer. There’s a simple reason why you should choose a guardian for your children — if you don’t, a judge will pick a guardian for you. Isn’t it better to prepare in advance so strangers don’t have to make life-altering decisions regarding your family?
In the event of your death, a guardian will become the parent to your children, as all children must be raised by an adult until the age of 18.
In many states, appointing a guardian is as simple as naming him or her in your will. Check with your lawyer — there may even be a specific state form for guardianship that you would only need a few signatures to complete!
There are a number of factors you may want to consider when you are choosing a guardian for your children, including:
- Is the prospective guardian over 18?
- Is the prospective guardian willing and able to parent your children?
- Does the prospective guardian have his or her own children? Are they close in age to your children?
- Does the prospective guardian share your religious beliefs or moral character?
- Does the prospective guardian have the time, money and other resources needed to properly raise children?
- Would your children have to move far away?
Does the Guardian Also Handle Finances?
It is also vital to consider whether you want the same guardian to oversee both your children and the children’s finances.
If you have put aside money in a will or trust for your children, a guardian must be chosen to handle the estate. It is common — and easier — to have the children’s guardian also handle the estate, but you can choose to have a different person manage the finances if you believe it will be in everyone’s best interest.
Can You Name More Than One Guardian for Your Children?
Many people choose only one person to be a guardian for their children, but it’s common to have a couple, like a good friend or relative along with their spouse.
If you choose a guardian couple and they end up getting divorced, remember to update your choice of guardian with your lawyer.
Alternately, people sometimes choose to have a different guardian for each child. This isn’t very common, but it may happen if the children have strong attachments to different relatives or close friends, or if the children are not close in age.
Choosing different guardians for different children or more than one guardian for your children may be a move that will be questioned by a judge. A judge is supposed to act in the best interest of the children, so he or she may question why you are splitting the children up or asking two different people to co-parent them. If this is the case, you may want to draft a letter of explanation for a judge to express your beliefs on why this is best for your children.
Remember to Ask!
Choosing someone to be the guardian of your children is, of course, a very important decision — not only for you and your family, but also for the prospective guardian. While it seems like common sense, remember to ask the prospective guardian if it’s OK and if he or she is up to the challenge of potentially raising your children.
While it may seem like you have a relative or friend that may be a perfect guardian for your children, he or she may feel differently. If you have already chosen a guardian for your children, check in every year or so to make sure he or she is still up for the job. People’s lives can change pretty dramatically in a short time. You want to be prepared.