6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Guardian for Your Child
Explore these key points when choosing a guardian for your child.
1. Consider all your options
Take the time to think through the scenarios that best support your children in the event of your passing. Avoid making a quick, default choice. Consider all your options, from relatives to family friends. If you were suddenly hospitalized, who would be the first person to step in and help care for your kids in the short term? If you need immediate help, who would you call?
When choosing a guardian for your children, remember that you're always free to change your mind later if your circumstances shift.
2. Know your prospective guardian's long-term situation
The best option for guardianship of your children today (like an aging grandparent) may not be the best option five years from now, let alone 10 or 15 years down the road when your children reach high school. Think about the life situation of the guardian you're considering. Will their age or health situation allow them to care for your children now and into the future effectively?
If you're unsure, consider naming a backup guardian, allowing your first choice to make a decision that's right for both them and your children in the event guardianship is needed.
3. Think about your family values
Every family has its own set of values. These range from religion and ethics to the importance of living situations and location. How well do your prospective guardians fit in with the values you've set for your children?
Consider how a guardian's religious and moral beliefs stack up with yours. How different would their living situation be for your children -- would they be forced to move across the country or just a few blocks away? It's also worth thinking through the guardian's ability to spend time with your children. Would additional caregiving be needed?
4. Have conversations with the guardian and your children
Don't surprise your choice of guardian upon a sudden — and tragic — need for them to step in. This isn't a movie; this is your children's future. Have a conversation now with your hopeful guardian to ensure they're aware and on board with your wishes.
These difficult conversations can foster an even better relationship presently between the guardian and your children. And as your children get old enough to understand, gently talk with them about what would happen in the event of your passing.
If everyone involved is on board with the plan in place, it cuts down on the unknowns during a trying time. If you have additional instructions on how you want your children raised, write those out and leave them for your guardian. A letter may not be legally binding, but it helps guide your chosen guardians.
5. Get your guardianship plan in legal writing
Having your guardianship plan in place and sharing it with your chosen guardian isn't enough, at least legally. You need to spell out the guardian — and any backup — in your will to simplify the process. Left to chance, the court decides the guardian for your children, and this decision could go far differently than how you'd hoped.
While naming your legal guardians in a will is important, naming someone to care for the assets you leave your children with is equally crucial. In many cases, this will be the same as your chosen guardian, but it may make sense to have someone else oversee a trust for your children.
If you have someone you don't want interfering with raising your child, make sure to write that into the will. Whatever you decide, make sure you spell it out, so strangers aren't deciphering it after the fact.
6. Secure enough life insurance to support your children
Asking someone to raise your children will be a monumental life change for everyone involved. Don't complicate it by leaving them in financial hardship. Secure enough life insurance coverage for yourself and your spouse so that your children's needs — everything from the day-to-day to future educational expenses — get adequately covered.
How much online life insurance do you need to support the guardian raising your children? Check out information from Ethos to get a better understanding of how to calculate your coverage and secure the best Ethos plan to provide for your children.