If you have one or more minor children, you will need to name a Guardian for them in your Will or Living Trust. Your Guardian will make personal and financial decisions for any of your minor children if you are no longer living or incapacitated and can no longer take care of them. Without a named Guardian, the court will pick whomever they want, and your wishes will never be known. Although the local probate court actually appoints the Guardians, the court almost always appoints the person named in the parent’s Will.
Factors to consider when deciding on a Guardian are the person’s:
- Child rearing skills
- Similar or compatible religious beliefs
- Family situation—if there are other children in the person’s household similar in age to your children
- Integrity and stability
- Physical ability to care for your children
- Job situation—to ensure they have time to care for your children
- Financial lifestyle and philosophy
- Geographical location
Note that you may decide to name someone other than your Guardian to manage and invest your child’s assets (i.e., in a living trust for your child), so the Guardian does not necessarily need to have great money management skills.
If you’re married, have this conversation with your spouse right away. If you’re a single parent, discuss it with another trusted adult. Then create your Guardianship papers. Should the unthinkable happen, your kids will be protected.