What makes a good guardian? Creating a will and estate plan means thinking about those you leave behind after you die. If you have young children, wards or even beloved pets, your will should also include naming a guardian. So, what do you look for in a guardian?
A Guardian’s Role
Firstly, after your death, a guardian will bear responsibility for the care of those named. Most commonly this refers to minor children under the age of 18. A guardian provides basic necessities, medical care, education and support until the child reaches 18 years old. They must act in the best interests of the child.
Common Guardian Nominees
Usually, the other parent or a stepparent may be named as guardian of young children. While tempting to name your parents (after all, they raised you), consider the likelihood of them outliving you. More commonly siblings, close friends, or other adult children make good nominees to serve as guardians. In the best scenarios, the adult already knows the child and their personality well.
Most importantly, a prospective guardian should have the physical and mental abilities as well as the financial stability to care for a child. They should also be dependable and trustworthy. In addition, beyond that baseline, you’ll have to consider who would best fill your role in your absence. Who shares your core values and beliefs? Who would parent your child in a manner similar to how you would? Guardians should also have the patience to support a child through the traumatic experience of losing their parent.
Consent to Serve as Guardian
This should go without saying. However, we’ll just put this right here: you should always ASK someone before naming them guardian of your child. In the event of your untimely death, named guardians should be aware of their new responsibilities. Having a named person unable or unwilling to serve as your child’s guardian could be doubly devastating for them.
To lessen the anxiety of finding THE guardian, parents should consider naming additional adults to serve as backup guardians. Things happen and even a well-informed, amenable first choice may have to bow out. Having multiple options can lessen the burden on someone who may no longer be in a position to serve as guardian.
As with most aspects of an estate plan, it makes sense to revisit guardian selection on a regular basis. Divorces, fallings out, or other unfortunate events could make previously ideal guardians no longer the best choices. Of course, you should make those impacted by your changes aware of them.
Every parent of young children should include guardianship as part of their estate planning. Knowing what makes a good guardian is only part of the equation. We know that every client has unique situations, and we take the time to understand your needs and wishes. Then we’ll offer advice on your best options. Call John A. Cochran, Esquire, in Greensburg at 724-216-5180 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation.