This week, we’ll be writing a three-part series on how to choose a good guardian for your minor children. This is probably the single most difficult issue for most young families who are drafting their Will or working on their Estate Plan. For many couples, it is hard to imagine that you may not be able to be there for your minor children, but it is important to think through these issues on the rare chance that the worst could happen.
In order to help families make this decision, we find that the following considerations are most important (we’ll look at the first 3 today and cover the rest in succeeding days):
1) Parenting Style
One of the first considerations you should make in determining who would get your kids is whether that person has a parenting style that is similar to your own. For instance, if your child comes from a home where both parents are extremely affectionate–giving hugs frequently, verbally telling the child “I Love You,” etc.–it would be very hard on the child to go to a home where the Guardians were more formal and less affectionate.
Likewise, some people view priorities in life differently. While you may value education highly (and would encourage your children to go to college, seek out graduate degrees, and so forth), if the Guardian you pick does not value education as highly, your child may not grow up with the same types of priorities that you would have instilled in them.
There are a myriad of issues surrounding parenting style, but in the end, you’ll want to think through what type of person you would want to parent your child. While some of your potential Guardians may be great people, they may not parent your children the way you would want them to be parented, and it’s important to pick someone that you feel closely mirrors your own parenting style.
2) Two Parents or Not?
Another consideration is whether you believe it is important that your child remain in a two-parent home. For instance, if you chose your sister and brother-in-law to be the Guardians for your children, what would you want to happen if they got divorced or one of them died? Would you want your kids to go to live with their grandparents at that point? Would you want your sister to keep the kids by herself? What if your sister died–would you want your brother-in-law to keep the kids by himself?
Some families find that it is important to specify in their Will that if the couple they choose should cease to be married for any reason, their children would move to live with another Guardian so that the children remain in a two-parent home.
This is not an easy consideration to weigh, but it can be important for many families.
3) Religious Affiliation
A third consideration is the religious affiliation of the potential Guardian. If you are a deeply religious person, you will want to ensure that the potential Guardian of your children would raise your children in your particular faith tradition. While your next door neighbor may have a wonderful parenting style and be great with your kids, if they do not hold the same religious views as you, it is unlikely that they would impart the same messages regarding religion to your kids that you would.
In thinking through this particular factor, it is important to remember the issues that are most important rather than seeking out someone who is a carbon copy of you in terms of religious views. Thus, if you are a Baptist, and your potential Guardian is a Methodist, but would raise your kids in a strong Christian home, the denominational affiliation may not be as important as the fact that your children would be raised in a Christian home. However, if you are Jewish and your potential Guardian is a Hindu, you may want to consider whether that Guardian would be able to impart the same religious message to your children that you would.
So these are just three of the major considerations for families in choosing a Guardian. Tomorrow we’ll look at a few more, and then we’ll wrap up on Thursday.
If you are interested in drafting a Will so that you can name a Guardian for your minor children, call us at 214-886-7633 or visit our Estate Planning Page to find out more.