“How do I choose a guardian for my children?”
It’s a question we’ve heard countless times. And it’s rarely easy for couples to work through. Some can become paralyzed to the point of inaction. Others avoid choosing a guardian because they think, “Someone will step up.” “We’ve voiced our wishes to our family, and they will work it out.” Or worse: “Appointing a guardian is not critical.”
Avoiding the issue or crossing your fingers and making a quick decision isn’t likely to turn out well in the long run. Some couples default to choosing a parent, a sibling or a best friend with the hope that the need will never arise. Imagine both sides of your family battling over custody of your kids. Imagine the resulting relationship fallout or the emotional stress on your children.
Without a provision in your will, a judge — not you — may decide who raises your children. This court process would add undue emotional stress and financial burden to your family. And despite all this, many do not give guardianship the attention it deserves.
How to make the choice easier?
Trust in our 5-step process for identifying a guardian.
Remember that there is no perfect choice — nobody will parent just like you. So focus on best practices to pick a proper guardian. Try these five steps to help bring you closer to the right choice for your family.
Step 1: Engage in self-discovery
Review the following questions separately and together with your spouse. Rank them as most important to least. This will help you identify which you should weigh more heavily in your decision-making process. For example: Is uprooting your children a bigger deal than a religious upbringing?
Answer as many of the questions as you can, and make an initial list of people who may fit the bill.
Geography. Where do you prefer your children to live? In their current hometown? At your current residence? Would the proposed guardian be able to, or consider living in your home? Would you be OK with children moving to the proposed guardian’s residence? Is their home big enough? Would your children have access to other family members? Where would they go to school? Would they have to change schools?
Lifestyle dynamics. Does the proposed guardian have children? How old are your children, and the guardian’s children? Do they raise their children in a way similar to you? Do your children know the guardian, and do they have a good relationship with them (and their children)? Is the guardian capable of carrying out all of the duties of guardianship for as many years as may be required?
Religion and values. Does the guardian share your religious and philosophical beliefs? If not, will they respect yours in raising your child? What are their views on discipline?
Finances. What is the guardian’s financial situation? Are they fiscally responsible or in line with your financial values? Will caring for your children create a financial burden on them? If you are providing resources for the guardian to use for the children (or as a fee for services), do you trust they will apply the funds properly and responsibly?
Step 2: Take stock of your life
Replay the last year in your life and write down what you routinely do for your kids, what you did with your kids, and the lessons they learned with your guidance.
Play out in your mind the years to come — tween years, teen years, college prep, college and beyond. Try to identify one or two key concerns for those years. Pair your list of candidates against this list and evaluate
Step 3: Align priorities
Identify your individual priorities and jointly agree to stay as close to the same priorities as possible. Align these priorities to proposed candidates.
Step 4: Interview candidates
Discuss the possibility of guardianship with your potential candidates. Gauge their willingness and ability to follow your wishes, promote your personal values and act in your children’s best interests. Determine which potential guardians match your priorities. Select the one or ones who are the best match.
Step 5: Execute and communicate
Work with your estate attorney to draft your guardianship clause. Then communicate your decision to your potential guardians.
Revisit the process as needed.
You may need to go through this process more than once as your life, values, children’s needs and goals change. It’s important to work through the steps together as a couple, always with the goal of picking the guardian who will love and care for your kids in a manner you would hope for in the short and long term.
SEI Private Wealth Management is an umbrella name for various life and wealth advisory services offered through SEI Investments Management Corporation (“SIMC”).
This presentation is provided by SEI Investments Management Corporation (SIMC), a registered investment adviser and wholly owned subsidiary of SEI Investments Company. The material included herein is based on the views of SIMC. Statements that are not factual in nature, including opinions, projections and estimates, assume certain economic conditions and industry developments and constitute only current opinions that are subject to change without notice. Nothing herein is intended to be a forecast of future events,
or a guarantee of future results.
This presentation should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice (unless SIMC has otherwise separately entered into a written agreement for the provision of investment advice).