Having a baby is one of the most amazing life experiences. However, you never want to think that something could happen to you, and someone else might raise your child.
Choosing a guardian for your kids is one of the most important steps you can take as new parents. You are selecting someone you know and trust to step in and raise your child until age 18. Therefore, choosing a guardian should be handled with care.
If you don’t choose a guardian, the courts get to decide for you. This situation can easily be avoided by taking a few proactive steps to ensure that you have a guardian in place from the day your baby is born.
Create a List
Start by creating a list of possible guardians for your kids. These could be family members or friends. Think about those in your life that would make great parents and similarly raise your kids.
A guardian is legally responsible for the health, education, welfare and physical care of your child until he or she reaches the age of 18. Since this is a serious job, you should take the selection process seriously as well. Some great questions to ask yourself when selecting a guardian are:
- Who shares my values?
- Who is already in my child’s life?
- Who has the means to care for my child?
- Who could be ready at the drop of a hat to step in and raise my child if something happened to me?
It’s a good idea to write down any name that comes to mind before you start filtering your list. Once you’ve got all the names down, begin by creating an A, B and C list. Remember, you do not need to share this list with anyone else, so take your time to select a guardian carefully. The most important step in choosing a guardian is to select someone you feel comfortable with right now.
Communicate Your Why
Once you’ve created your A list of guardians, it’s time to communicate with your top choice. Too many parents neglect this step. They choose a guardian but never communicate with that person. You could be caught off guard if you weren’t expecting to step in as a guardian and suddenly got the call.
Have an open and honest conversation with each of your top choices, explaining your decision and allowing the potential guardian to express his or her interest or concerns. If your top choice does not feel comfy with the decision, move on down your list to the next choice. Guardianship is not for everyone.
Put It in Writing
Once you have selected your guardian, you need to put it in writing. The best place to name your guardian is in a will. If you don’t have a will already set up, you can create one affordably online using services like Tomorrow and Willing.com. Naming a guardian in a will by no means locks that person in for a lifetime. If circumstances change, or you change your mind, you can easily update your will to include the name of the new guardian.
Once again, naming a guardian isn’t good enough. You must put it in writing to avoid a court decision on your behalf. With that said, typically, your choice of a guardian is just a suggestion for the courts. Every state has different laws, so it might be a good idea to chat with an attorney to make sure you know the rules within your state.