When creating a Will there are a number of key decisions that need to be made. Such as appointing an Executor or deciding to whom you would like to leave the residue of your estate. But there is perhaps no more anxiety provoking decision then naming a guardian for you minor children. It’s just one of those things that no one wants to ever think about, because the thought of leaving your children behind is terrifying. But rest assured, after carefully considering this decision and naming a guardian it will provide you with some well deserved peace of mind.
Here is a list of a few important things to think about when you are making this decision:
1. Location, Location, Location
Where does the potential guardian live? Location is often a determining factor for many parents. If your prefered guardian lives in another city it is important to think about whether it be realistic for your children to move. It all depends on your own particular circumstances.
Also, citizenship could matter. In general, if you and your children live in one country, but the potential guardian lives in another country and is not a citizen of the country where your children reside, becoming a guardian of a minor does not automatically grant citizenship. This is the case with many jurisdictions.
2. Parenting Skills of Potential Guardians
It might not be easy to tell what your potential guardians’ parenting skills are, especially if they don’t have children. To get a better idea of what their parenting skills might be you could ask situational questions to gauge how potential guardians would respond given a hypothetical situation. If they already have children in their care, you can gauge if their parenting style is similar to your own by observing how they deal with their own children and if the dynamics change when they are interacting with your own.
3. What is Their Family Situation? Do They Have Children?
If you are naming a couple as the guardians to a minor. It is important to think about the potential of the couple separating. It is often encouraged not to name a couple, but rather to name only the member of the couple that is closest to you for legal reasons. For example, only naming the blood relative. Every family is different, and this is ultimately a personal decision if you decide to name joint guardians. There are no hard and fast rules.
If your potential guardian already has children, a consideration might be whether the children are friendly and get along, the ages of the children, and whether raising additional minor children is something the potential guardian is emotionally capable of doing.
4. Money, Money, Money
The financial obligation of raising a child is something that new parents often plan for. This will not be the case if someone is named a guardian. It is important to consider whether they will have the financial resources to take on raising a child should something happen to you. Often people are uncomfortable talking about their own financial situation, which is why having an honest conversation about expectations and financial limitations is important. Because raising a child can impose a financial burden, having this conversation can help you decide if this is the right person to be named as a guardian.
Another important consideration is who is going to be in charge of any trust money that is left for minor children. There are two schools of thought on this issue. If one divides control, and appoints another person or entity as Trustee this will serve as another level of protection, as it creates a division between the management of the money and the raising of the children. On the flip side, if you are asking someone to take care of your children, by dividing control you will be putting additional hurdles in their way. Guardians will have to petition a Trustee for funds everytime they need it, potentially causing financial friction in the raising your children. Every situation is different and parents must make the best decision for their family based on their particular circumstances.
5. Age of Potential Guardian
Age isn’t just a number, as we get older we can have less energy and even develop health problems that make it harder to care for young children. This can be especially difficult if the child is at a demanding age. Parents often think of naming their own parents as potential guardians. After all, they did a great job! If this is the case for you it is important to consider whether they will have a sufficient support system in place to not only raise your minor child, but also to look after themselves.
6. Religious, Political and Moral beliefs
These characteristics are often overlooked when considering a potential guardian, but if they are something important and reflect how you would like your child to be raised, then they merit consideration. It is often encouraged for parents to write a Letter of Wishes to the Guardian and attach it to the Will. This letter can include information such as extracurricular programmes that a child should be encouraged towards, or that a child be raised specific to a religious belief. The letter is not legally binding, but it gives the potential guardians an understanding of what religious, political and moral beliefs they should consider in the care of your child.
7. Have You Asked Them If They are Willing to Serve As a Guardian For Your Minor Children?
Asking the person(s) you are considering if they are willing to serve as guardians is perhaps the most important consideration when deciding on who to name as a guardian for your minor children. Having this conversation can be difficult, but it is important to know whether they are willing to take on the responsibility of raising your children. You should also name substitute guardians for your minor children in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take on the obligation when the time comes. Having this conversation, and not just naming someone in your Will, is the only way to ensure peace of mind that your children will be taken care of if you were to pass away.