If you are a parent, it is crucial to give careful thought to choosing a legal guardian for your child in the event of an unfortunate circumstance. All parents agree the thought of someone else raising your child is a tough pill to swallow. However, unforeseen circumstances could leave your child without a parent, making it imperative to select a legal guardian.
A legal guardian is the person responsible for your child’s well-being if you pass away or become incapacitated before they reach the age of 18. Failing to select a guardian could result in the court selecting someone that may not have been your first choice.
Responsibilities of a Legal Guardian of a Child
The legal guardian of a child has the responsibility to provide for their everyday needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. The legal guardian is also accountable for ensuring the physical and emotional safety of the child. Although the legal guardian may offer financial support to the child, they are not authorized to control the child’s money or property, which is the role of a conservator. The precise duties of a legal guardian may differ depending on the state laws in which they are appointed.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Legal Guardian
Here are 6 important factors to consider when choosing a legal guardian:
Consider Responsibilities Beyond Love and Care
It is natural to prioritize love and care when selecting a legal guardian. However, other factors should also be considered. The ideal candidate should be responsible, both at work and home, and financially stable. Alternates should also be chosen in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take up the role.
Don’t Automatically Choose a Couple
While couples may seem like a stable choice, divorce happens, and it could impact your child’s life if your chosen couple splits. Consider selecting a single person or decide who would be responsible for your child if the couple separates. Think about whether your child would fit in with the couple’s family and if they would receive individual attention.
Take Age, Health, and Location into Account
When selecting a guardian, it is important to consider age and health as critical factors. Although grandparents may be an excellent choice, they may not have the energy to keep up with a toddler or handle a teenager’s emotional demands. It may be helpful to appoint a guardian for a specific duration and another for when the child turns 18. You should also consider the potential guardian’s location as moving could significantly impact your child’s life.
Consider Values and Finances
When selecting a legal guardian, it is important to consider factors such as religion, morals, educational views, and parenting styles. It is also crucial to assess how well your potential guardians get along with your family and if they can handle the financial responsibilities that come with raising a child.
Contemplate Splitting the Task
Some parents prefer to appoint the same person as a guardian and the executor of their will. However, this may not be the best option if your chosen guardian does not have good financial acumen. Consider appointing a separate person to handle the financial aspect of your child’s life.
If you and your spouse have opposing views on who should serve as the guardian, compromise is crucial. I have observed many couples have tense discussions over the years while deciding on this matter. For instance, the husband may prefer his sister, while the wife may want someone from her own family. In such cases, it may be necessary to reach a compromise. For instance, you can consider having one side of the family as the guardian and the other side responsible for managing the child’s finances.
Importance of Assigning a Guardian for Your Child in a Will
Assigning a legal guardian for your child/children in a will holds utmost importance. It ensures that someone you trust and who shares your values and beliefs raises your children. If you don’t assign a guardian, the court will have to make a decision in the event of your untimely death. This decision may not align with your wishes and could cause unnecessary stress and turmoil for your children during an already difficult time. You can have peace of mind by clearly designating a legal guardian in your will that your children will be cared for by someone you trust and love.