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How to Choose a Guardian for Your Children?

An essential part of an estate plan for a young family is the nomination of guardian of minor children.  If the unthinkable happens, you want to provide a judge with guidance of who you trust to raise your children if you’re unable to.  The alternative is that a judge who you’ve never met will be making the decision for you!  There are many things for you to consider in making this nomination. As with anything so personal, how you prioritize the factors is unique to your own values.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Relationship with kids.  If you die, your kids are going to be going through a lot of transition.  They will likely be moving homes, potentially starting new schools, adapting to new rules and expectations. Not to mention managing their own grief process.  An important consideration is whether your children have a relationship with your nominated guardian (NG) and how they connect.
  2. Shared values, or a willingness to support your values.  While it isn’t essential that your nominated guardians are in the same religion or have the same thoughts on higher education, you’ll want to be sure that your nominated guardians are willing to support those values and morals that are important to you.  If you insist that your children are raised vegetarians, will your nominated guardians learn how to bake tofu?
  3. Availability. Sometimes the perfect guardian is perfect in name only.  It is essential you think through the practical reality of what adding your children to your nominated guardian’s lives will look like.  Do your NGs have other children who your kids will meld well with?  Will your NGs be able to jump back into diapers if they are years away from an empty nest?  Do your kids have (or your NG’s kids) have any special needs that should be factored into the decision?
  4. Location. Are you comfortable with your children being raised in the area where your NG lives?  Is your NG open to moving into your home?
  5. Financial stability. You’re always hopeful that you’ve set things up such that if you die your kids are well taken care of financially, whether that is through sale of a home or life insurance.  But adding children to a NGs family may require them to move to a large home, take time off work to manage the household, etc.  These are things you’ll want to discuss with your estate planning attorney and financial advisor.  Importantly, you can nominate different people to act as your children’s guardian and the guardian of your children’s estate!
  6. Connecting both sides of the family. It may be important to consider whether your NG is willing to ensure your children continue to be connected to both sides of your family, if this is important to you.  Will your NG proactively maintain and strengthen familial ties?  Alternatively, if you have strong feelings about boundaries, will your NG recognize and support those boundaries?

Review Every 5 Years

As with any estate planning decision, it is essential to review your decision regularly—at least every 5 years—and at any important life changes (yours or your NG’s!).  While your NG might be the best NG for your one child, after you’ve grown your family to three children, you’ll want to ensure they are still the best choice.  This also applies if you or your NG move or experience a life event (marriage, divorce) that could impact whether the NG is still the best person/couple for the role.  You can also take the opportunity to provide specific guidance against a certain person being guardian of your children, for whatever reason you think is important!  Your input is important and the judge will want to hear from you!

Talk About Your Decisions

Finally, we suggest that you discuss your decision with your loved ones as you make your decision.  There may be factors you are unaware of that would impact their ability to act as guardian.  This gives you the opportunity to share your values, goals, and hopes for your children with people who may be in the position of guiding them in your place.

If you are struggling with the decision of who to nominate as your minor children’s guardian, you may consider memorializing your concerns and goals.  If something happens to you and a judge is appointing a guardian, this may be the closest you’ll have to being a voice in the courtroom.

Contact Us Today

If you would like to speak with an Estate Planning Attorney or wish to learn more about a Nomination of Guardian, please contact us at (603) 943-5647 or fill out our online form here: