Gregory S. DuPont
Guardianship for Your Children: A Look at the Issues
Selecting a guardian for your children is an extremely personal and important decision. While you certainly want to choose a trustworthy individual, you also need someone who understands the serious commitment involved in guardianship.
If a potential guardian does not have children already, suddenly having children may require a significant change in lifestyle. On the other hand, candidates with children will need to integrate your children into their family. In addition, it is difficult to predict how well children will adjust to a new family. Suppose you choose a friend rather than a relative. Will your family members create unnecessary conflict by second-guessing the guardian’s decisions?
Assuming guardianship of someone else’s children is also a major financial responsibility. The respective parties should address some important financial issues beforehand, including the following:
- Will the guardian be willing and able to assume full financial responsibility for raising your children? Will the guardian require financial provisions to be made in your will? For instance, will you designate the guardian as the beneficiary of your life insurance policies should both you and your spouse die?
- Is there sufficient life insurance to help pay for the cost of raising your children, including higher education expenses?
- If assets are to be placed in trust for the benefit of your children, how will the trust be administered? Will the guardian have a role in controlling the trust assets?
Finalizing a Commitment
Even if you have chosen a guardian, your decision is not binding until a court formally appoints the guardian. Generally, a court will not force unwilling people to serve as guardians, even if they have previously agreed and were named as guardians in the deceased parents’ will.
When selecting a guardian, be sure to openly and honestly discuss these important issues. You may then feel assured, knowing a caring individual will raise your children in a loving, supportive environment. Also, the guardian will understand the financial responsibility he or she is being asked to assume. And, most importantly, your children can be cared for by prepared and willing guardians.