Naming a guardian for your child is important. No one likes to consider the idea of leaving their children before they want, but it’s important to plan for their care. If you don’t take the steps to name a guardian, then the choice of who cares for your children is no longer up to you. It’s up to the government. Do you want a bureaucrat to decide who will raise your son or daughter? Of course you don’t, but picking a guardian for your children to provide care in your absence is much more important than just a name.
"An inheritance obtained too early in life is not a blessing in the end." -Proverbs 20:21
A guardian for your children: Ground rules for discussion
This decision should be a discussion between husband and wife. This is a talk you should set aside specific time for and devote the time deserved for this serious topic. As spouses, you don’t always have to agree on everything. This is a decision that requires agreement. You’ll need to agree on the best person or persons to act as guardian for your children. This includes a backup or contingency option as well. The question of how to name a guardian for your child is worthy of a prayerful decision.
How to pick a guardian for your child: Required Qualities
Think about how the guardian would raise your children with respect to attitudes on faith, morality, and so forth. Will the guardian make your children a part of their church, come to your church to give the children a sense of continuity or none of the above?
Ability to Parent
Think about the guardian’s ability to parent. This is different from loving the children and wanting what is best for them. Your guardian needs to not just want good things for your children, they need to make it happen. Good intentions don’t cut it here.
What is the guardian’s financial ability to take on additional dependents? Can they handle extra mouths to feed? If not, have you taken steps with life insurance or other provisions to put them in a position where they can? Considering how to choose a guardian for your child is a combination of the guardian’s wherewithal and what you can do to put everyone on the best financial footing possible were you no longer there.
Guardian’s children and family
If you are choosing a guardian who is married or has their own children, consider the impact. You will want the guardian and their spouse to be up to the task of raising your children in the context of their own family.
Life Stage of the caregiver
The child’s grandparents may be the first choice for many but think this over. Sometimes a potential guardian is beyond the point in life when they can be effective in this role. On the other side of this question, some potential guardians may not be ready for this level of responsibility yet.
Home and Location
Does the guardian live in a place you would want your children raised? Will they move now or plan to move in the future? If you want your children to spend the rest of their childhood in the same town, a guardian who had not such desire may not be the best fit.
Willingness to carry out your wishes
Ultimately, you need a guardian who will respect and carry out the way you want your children raised in your absence. That person or couple needs to have your full confidence that the upbringing of your child is in keeping with your vision.
Communicate your wishes with the named guardian
When you make the decision, there’s a crucial next step. As a couple, you must speak with the potential guardian or guardians. This may be uncomfortable but must be done. Discuss the willingness and ability of your potential guardian to serve in this capacity. You must have confidence in the ability of a guardian to raise your children. Be respectful, but also don’t hold back a lingering question. You both need to gain full confidence that you have chosen the right person or family.
If it’s not in writing, it doesn’t matter
If you and your spouse go through all the questions above and fail to put a plan in writing, unfortunately the plan will carry no weight. You must engage with a competent legal professional to put your wishes in writing. Putting your desired guardian on a piece of paper and signing it is not good enough. An attorney can help guide you on the best way to ensure your wishes are carried out and can withstand legal scrutiny. Naming a guardian for your child in a will may be enough, but some circumstances warrant other legal tools like a trust to provide proper care and protection. The issue of how to appoint a guardian for your child is also specific to the law in the state you reside in, so tread carefully.
Keep the plan up to date
Circumstances can change and people can change. Revisit this plan as your family changes over time. Also revisit it if something changes regarding your confidence in a potential guardian. The right guardians today may be different a few years from now.
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