One life event that often spurs people to start an estate plan is welcoming a child. It’s always wise to designate a legal guardian to care for them if something happens to you and your spouse. While the odds are slim that this will happen, they aren’t zero. Unfortunately, couples die together in crashes and other catastrophic events all the time.
Even if you have a loving family who will ensure that your child is well cared for, it’s still important to name one of them for guardianship. That will avoid some legal steps for them and possibly a family battle.
For many people, family isn’t even a consideration. Even if you have family living nearby, they may be too old or have jobs or lives that aren’t a good fit for parenthood. Even if you and your family have a good relationship, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want them to raise your child.
What to look for when considering candidates
Whether you’re looking at family and/or friends as potential legal guardians, the kinds of things to consider are basically the same. For example:
- Are they young and healthy enough to raise your child into adulthood if they had to take over tomorrow?
- Do they live close enough that your child can stay in their school and around their friends?
- Do they already have all the kids they can handle?
- Will they be able to afford to raise your child, even with the money you would provide for their care?
- Do they share your religion (or absence of religious faith)?
- Do their core values and their attitudes around education, money and anything else that’s important to you align with your own?
- If you’re considering friends, will they be able to deal with your family, whom you’ll likely still want to be part of your child’s life?
If you’re considering a couple, it’s important to look at their relationship. Some people will choose just one of the spouses as the legal guardian in case the couple divorces, but having just one spouse be the legal guardian can present its own problems.
These are the kinds of things to spend some time discussing before you even broach the topic with prospective guardians for your child. It’s also wise to have legal guidance. This can help you ensure that you get the appropriate documents in place.