Regardless of age or financial circumstances, every individual should seriously consider taking the time to prepare a will. Although many people believe that wills and estate planning in general are only for those in the middle and upper-middle class income brackets, the reality is that preparing a will is a good idea for anyone who wants to be sure that their possessions, debt, and family members are all taken care of after death.
But, when it comes to individuals with children, preparing a will is even more important. Taking the time to prepare a will now will ensure that if something should ever happen to you or your spouse, you can rest assured that your children will be taken care of. But, how exactly does one go about choosing an appropriate guardian for a child when drafting a will?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not as simple as the decision to prepare a will in the first place. In all reality, the individual that you select as a guardian for your children is an extremely personal choice, and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. Nevertheless, if you are unsure about what factors you should weigh in making this determination, consider the following:
First and foremost, consider the individual members of your family. Depending on your particular situation. More often than not, individuals will select their spouses as sole-guardians of their children. Although biological parents generally have first priority, if your current spouse is not the biological parent of one or more of your children, you should consider discussing the possibility that he or she may have to step into your shoes as that child’s parent in the even of your death. In addition, most wills will include provisions that outline a succession of alternative guardians that could take on this responsibility in the event that the initial guardian chosen cannot or will not serve as guardian. So, keep in mind other relatives that may be willing and able to take on the role of guardian in the event that something happens to you. Family members are often chosen because of the physical and emotional bond that many relatives have with one another, and relatives are often the first choice when it comes time to select a potential future guardian.
Another factor to consider when selecting a guardian is the candidate’s financial responsibility. The individual that you select as the guardian of your children should undoubtedly be someone who is cautious when it comes to finances, and who is reliable enough to follow through on the obligations and responsibilities that come along with being a parent. Financial security is extremely important because if the individual ultimately does have to step in as a guardian, you want to be sure that taking on the responsibility of being a guardian to your children is not going to cause financial turmoil for that person.
Without a doubt, one of the most important factors to consider is the potential guardian’s willingness to take on these responsibilities. Although guardians will typically have to sign off on the responsibility themselves in order to be legally bound by their decisions, it is important that you have an open, honest discussion with the person that you want as your children’s guardian in order to determine whether or not they are willing to take on such a responsibility, even with the knowledge that these guardianship provisions tend to be considered by potential guardians in a ‘hypothetical’ state of mind whereby they may agree without fully understanding the responsibilities that they will have to undertake and without understanding the very real possibility that they may one day be called upon to serve in this role.
Overall, the best way to choose someone as a guardian for your children when you sit down to write a will is to take some time to truly consider who you feel would be the best person to step into your shoes and provide for your children financially as well as emotionally. Choose someone who you feel will do their best to represent the values that you found most important throughout your life to your children, even after you are gone. However, keep in mind that you should also discuss the expectations and wishes that you have with whomever you ultimately see as a potential guardian in order to make the best decision you can.