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Family at a Beach

How to Choose a Guardian

Published April 3, 2018  •  3  minute read

As parents, there are many questions that keep us up at night. One such question is "What will happen to my child if something happens to me?" If you don't nominate a guardian then the court will choose for you. The court will look to available and willing family members and if none are able, your child may end up in foster care.


What you need to do is create a will. Within the will, you will make a nomination for guardian of the person of your child. Doing so will give you great peace of mind and provide clarity for those you leave behind so that no one has to guess what you wanted. You will avoid family members arguing over who will take care of your child and hopefully streamline the process during an already difficult time.


Now you know that you need to create a will and name a guardian, but you may still be wondering WHO to choose as guardian and what that role really means. A guardian of the person is the adult that will live with your child, take care of their day to day needs and well being just as you would. While no one can replace the love and presence of a parent, here are some factors to consider when choosing a guardian:


1. Geographic location

If the guardian lives in another city, state or country you want to make sure that your child or the guardian has the ability to move. Consider whether your child needs access to special services or health care and if those are available in a different location. Also, consider whether your child has citizenship and a passport in the country where the potential guardian lives. Conversely, you may consider whether the guardian has the ability to move to join your child.


2. Marital and family status 

If you have decided on a guardian and they are married, you may be inclined to name them and their spouse. However, this can cause problems if the couple divorces or lives in different places. As such, it is advisable to name one individual at a time. You can and should name successors in case the first person that you named is not able to serve as guardian.


3. Age and health

The closest and most trusted person to you and your child might be your parent. There is nothing wrong with naming someone significantly older than you. You want to make sure that in the event they are no longer available, you have also named successors that can fill the role.


There are many other factors to consider when choosing a legal guardian for your child that depend on your family situation and key players. Remember, you can amend your will. As your child grows and relationships evolve, you may want to choose a different guardian. This can be done with a simple amendment. Choose a person that makes sense for your child's life and circumstances now.


Whether you know exactly who to choose or you have no idea where to start, it is best to make the decision with the counsel of an experienced attorney. If you feel paralyzed by the enormity of the decision, start with what you can by contacting an estate planning attorney.

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