By: Alison C. Petri © 2018
One of the hardest decisions parents need to make is to determine who they want to care for their minor child upon death (i.e. a “guardian”). No parent wants to imagine this possibility, but it is imperative for it to be part of the planning process. Below are some issues to consider when choosing a guardian for your minor child.
- Parenting Style. Make sure your guardian’s parenting style and yours match – or at least mesh. This is especially critical if you have specific desires about how your child is to be raised in your absence. Ask questions of your potential guardian to ensure everyone is on the same page. It is always best to be as open as possible about your expectations.
- Location. Parents often desire for their children’s guardian to be a family member. However, sometimes families do not live nearby. This could result in your child needing to move out of a school district, city, or even state to be placed with a guardian. For some children, a move may not be significant but for other children (e.g. those who are in high school, have a job, or have special needs providers) any move might be disruptive. This can be especially true after the loss of a parent.
- Availability. Is the person who you want to be guardian available (and willing) to do it? Your preferred guardian may not be healthy enough to care for a young child, may not have the work flexibility to handle the schedule of a baby or the back/forth travel needs of a child in extracurricular activities, or may not be able to have a child at their retirement community or one-bedroom apartment. It is hard work and a commitment to raise children well and you want to make sure any potential guardian can handle ALL of the child’s demands.
- Financial Capabilities. To raise a child from birth until 18, it is estimated to cost approximately $250,000. If a parent is unable to financially provide an inheritance to their child to cover those costs it may be up to the guardian to financially care for a child. There are several social safety nets available to help defray the cost for a guardian, but a guardian’s finances and/or parent’s inheritance for a child are issues that need to be contemplated in choosing a guardian or accepting a role as guardian.
Once a guardian is agreed upon, it is necessary to include the person you want appointed in your Last Will and Testament. This is the best way to avoid arguments between family members following your death. It is also recommended to list an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable to act as guardian.
It is important to discuss with a trusted attorney any questions about guardianship for your minor child. Everyone’s personal situation is unique.