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7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Guardian for Your Minor Child

A legal guardian is someone appointed to care for a minor child in the event that the child’s parents are unable to do so due to illness or death. While the thought of appointing someone else to care for your child may be daunting, failure to do so leaves the decision at the discretion of the court should the need arise.

1. Assuming guardianship of a minor child is a major responsibility. Therefore, it is important to discuss your expectations with the prospective guardian when asking if they are willing or able to meet your expectations should the need arise. Although they may love your child, there may be legitimate reasons why they are unable or unwilling to do so. Give them the opportunity to make the decision without feeling obligated to do so. Feeling an obligation to do so may lead to resentment.

2. Age/Health.The age and health of both the guardian and the child should be considered in the decision-making process. Although grandparents may be the best parents and grandparents, they may be less than ideal candidates, especially when the children are young and/or have health issues that may require extended guardianship. Choose someone young enough to care for your child until they become adults and healthy enough to physically withstand the demands of raising a child.

3. Shared Values.Choose someone who shares your spiritual and/or religious beliefs, parenting style, moral, educational and social values and able to instill the same values in your child.

4. Proximity of Guardian’s Residence to Child’s Home. The period following the loss of their parents will be stressful, relocating the child from their community will exacerbate the pain. This is especially true for school aged children. In addition to losing their parents, relocation will result in the loss of friends, teachers and any social activities they were involved in.

5. Existing Relationship.Often times, parents feel obligated to choose family members as the child’s guardian. However, they may not always be the best choice. Consider friends, families with whom your family has a close relationship and families of your child’s close friends. It is important to choose a person that the child has a close relationship with and interacts with frequently. Choosing a sibling who only has a virtual relationship with the child may not be in the child’s best interest.

6. Lifestyle. Maintaining as much normalcy as possible during such a tragic time in the child’s life is essential. Therefore, it’s important to choose a guardian whose lifestyle is similar to what the child is accustomed to. While the free spirited aunt, who relocates often in an effort to “find herself” and vowed never to have children, may be the best aunt ever, she may not be the best choice for the child’s stability or wellbeing.

7. Financial Stability. Upon your death, your child will inherit your assets. It is important to choose a guardian who is financially responsible and capable of managing the inheritance distributions. You want to ensure that the child’s assets will be used for their intended purpose. Conversely, you don’t want your child to be a financial burden to the guardian.

 

While losing a parent is a lifechanging and traumatic experience for anyone, it can be even more traumatic for a minor child, especially if an estate plan is not executed. The uncertainty and instability surrounding the child’s care until the court decides only increases the emotional turmoil. Once a guardian has been selected, consult an attorney to draft an estate plan to make the decision legally binding. Otherwise, the decision will be made based on statutory requirements, which may not be consistent with your desires.

If you have questions about choosing a guardian for your minor child or estate planning, visit www.ReedShermanLaw.com or click here to schedule a consultation.

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