If you have young children, you’ve probably given some thought to who would raise them if you weren’t able. And while nobody likes to think about worst-case scenarios, making arrangements for a legal guardian lets you rest assured that your children would be well looked after.
This article gives you more information about legal guardianship and what factors to consider before writing your Last Will and Testament (“will”). If you still have questions about legal guardianship, contact a Fifth Third Bank planning specialist.
What is a legal guardian and why should I name one in my will?
A legal guardian is the individual with legal authority over and responsibility for the personal welfare and property of a minor child. If one parent passes away, guardianship typically goes to the surviving parent. But, in the event that both parents die before the child reaches adulthood, or the remaining parent is not suitable, a legal guardian will care for them.
Do not assume your children will automatically go to your mother, brother or aunt. If you do not name a specific legal guardian in your will, then anyone can make a case for the opportunity, and a judge makes the final decision. Naming a legal guardian in your will keeps the decision in your hands – rather than the court system. To avoid conflicting directives, both parents should list the same legal guardian in their wills.
Selecting a great legal guardian
Start by making a list of possible candidates, most likely relatives or friends. You and your partner can weigh the pros and cons of each. Here are some factors to consider:
- Parenting style and values: How closely do the parenting styles and values of the potential guardians match your own? Is a certain religious doctrine or belief structure important to you?
- Ability to take on a child: Who would best be able to take on the challenges of raising a child – financially, emotionally and physically? How is the overall health of the potential guardian? Would they be able to handle the physical demands?
- Child’s comfort level: Is there someone with whom your child already feels comfortable?
- Other children: Do the prospective guardians already have children of their own? How would your child and get along with theirs long-term?
- Location: Would choosing this person as a legal guardian require your child to move far away or change schools? How would your child handle these changes?
Talking with your choice of legal guardian
You have weighed the pros and cons and made your choice of a potential legal guardian. Before naming them in your will, sit down and talk with them.
Remember, this is both huge honor and a major responsibility, and not everyone will be comfortable accepting. Do not force the issue. If your first choice is reluctant, move on to another suitable candidate. If the legal guardian named in your will doesn’t accept the responsibility when and if the time comes, the court will assign a legal guardian. It’s better to have this heart-to-heart in advance, so all parties agree to their responsibilities.
Being the best parent, even after you’re gone
While it’s difficult to imagine anyone other than you raising your children, there are certainly others out there who would show them love and provide a caring home. Part of being the best parent to your child now is putting a plan in place for the right person to care for him or her in the event of your death. By reading this article, you have already taken the first step. If you need help the rest of the way, contact a Fifth Third specialist today.