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Choosing the most appropriate guardian for your kids

Your children are the most precious part of your life. You likely spend most of your time trying to make their lives good and happy, including working to provide them with the things they need, setting aside money for their futures, and making sure they are safe and healthy. Now you are ready to take the important step of establishing an estate plan in case you are unable to continue these labors of love into their adulthood.

One of the primary goals of a parent's estate plan is making sure to choose an appropriate guardian for the children in case an accident or illness should cause you to become incapacitated or pass away while your children are still minors. Of course, no one will be perfect because no one is exactly like you. However, there are some factors to consider to help you narrow down your choice.

Guardian checklist

After you make a list of the people who are the most logical choices to be guardians of your children, you can compare the list to the qualities you hold in highest esteem, for example:

  • Do you have a philosophy of parenting you hope your child's guardian will share? This may mean observing how the candidates deal with discipline, education, extra-curricular activities and even dating.
  • Do you have strong religious beliefs, moral standards or political leanings that you want the guardian to maintain? If you are unsure how closely those beliefs resemble yours, you may need a heart-to-heart conversation with the candidates on your list.
  • Is it important that your children be the sole focus of the guardian, or are you willing to insert your children into an already existing family?
  • Are you willing to designate a single person, or are you firm that the guardian should be married? It may also be important to ask delicate questions about the stability of the candidates' marriages.
  • Which candidates are the most financially stable, have steady jobs or may be able to give up one income to care for your children?

These are only a few of the considerations you may need to make. Of course, practical matters like the guardian's age, where he or she lives and whether he or she would even agree to raising your children may be those you resolve first. You may find it helpful to seek legal advice as you make your decision. A California attorney who has experience in estate planning and guardianships can provide you with guidance and answers.

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