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How to Choose a Guardian for Your Minor Child(ren)

If you have children who are minors, it is very important to 1) get a will and 2) choose a guardian to take care of them should you pass away before they are the age of majority. This can be a very, very difficult choice, especially if the father and mother do not agree on a guardian. It is a common estate planning problem, since usually both grandparents volunteer, or the child has two favorite aunts, etc.

However, making sure that your child is taken care of if an unfortunate accident should happen to both parents is very important. If the parents do not stipulate who they nominate as guardian in a will, the children will be chosen a guardian through a court process, which takes months, is expensive, and puts a great emotional toll on the children after their parents’ death.

There are some important factors to think about when choosing your child(ren)’s guardian. From parenting style to finding a stable living condition, as well as the existing relationship between the children and their nominated guardian, here are countless issues to contemplate before you make the final decision.

What follows is a list of only some of the important questions parents may want to ask themselves as they consider their options for guardian of their minor children:

1. Where is your potential guardian located? Moving, especially after a traumatic event like a parents’ death, can be hard for minors. Does your potential guardian live in the same city or same State?Will your child be able to stay in a familiar environment during the emotional transition, or will he or she have to move to another city or state? What part of town does the potential guardian live? Is their house located around good schools and safe neighborhoods?

2. How close is the child(ren) and the potential guardian? If the minor child and the potential guardian have an existing, close relationship, it will make the transition much easier for the child.  There will already be a relationship of trust, comfort, and the guardian will already know the likes and dislikes of the minor child. If you end up choosing  a family member or sibling that lives far away, you should try to establish a familiar relationship with the child and their potential guardian in case something happens to you.

3. Is your potential guardian physically, emotionally, and financially prepared to take care of your child(ren)? While nominating grandparents seems like a great idea, since usually there is already a close bond and a relationship, an aging grandparent may not be physically  or emotionally fit to take care of your young child or your moody teenager. Similarly, a loved aunt, who has many student loans and lives in one-bedroom apartment, may not be financially fit, or have the time, to provide for the child(ren).

4. If your minor children have special needs, does you potential guardian have the knowledge or the skill to handle your child correctly?  A special needs child is a hard situation that can take the parents years to develop important skills that they need to have to correctly care for the child. When you are looking at potential guardians, be aware of their skills with special needs children, or encourage them to gain knowledge and develop skills in case they are ever needed.

5. Make sure to tell your potential guardian, and discuss it with them beforehand. It is very important to have a conversation with your potential guardian before you nominate them in you will. You can gauge how comfortable they are with the idea, and see if there is any reluctance before you nominate them for such an important task. Make sure you tell them of your parenting preferences, important features you want in your children’s care (religious, education), and tell them of your hopes for your children. Also, make sure your potential guardian knows that he/she can say no if they are unable to take on the responsibility, and make sure that you  have several backup nominations in case your first choice declines.

If you have minor children, it is very important that you nominate a guardian in a will. The task of nominating a guardian is not an easy one, and there may be disagreements between the two parents, but it is an important task that must be done. The minute you have children, you should be thinking of their futures and their safety, and that includes a situation if you and your spouse are no longer able to care for them. It will also give you a peace of mind, knowing that your children will be in good hands, and that the court will have little to no say in who will take care of your children.

If you would like to know more about creating a will and nominating a guardian, please call the offices of the Skillern Law firm today!

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