When you become a parent, you suddenly become aware of all the many things there are to plan and prepare for. While that bouncing bundle of joy may not come with a handbook, it almost seems like it does come with a list of worst-case scenarios. Rest assured, Trust & Will are experts in helping you take care of the "what ifs" so that you can focus on more important things.
In this guide, we'll discuss what you should know before appointing a Legal Guardian for your child, plus how to make it official.
What is a Legal Guardian?
A Legal Guardian is a person or couple designated to raise your children if and when you are no longer in a position to do so. It is most common for parents to appoint a Legal Guardian in the event of their untimely deaths. However, Legal Guardianship can also be beneficial in situations involving illness, disability, and incarceration.
Legal Guardians have legal and physical custody of minor children. They are responsible for making all of the decisions regarding their upbringing, including education, discipline, religious practices, and more.
Why Do I Need a Legal Guardian For My Child?
A Legal Guardianship is for parents who aren't quite ready for a Will but want to make sure their children are still protected. It's tough to think about someone other than you raising your baby. That's why you should know exactly who would fill that role, should the unthinkable happen.
One of the first realizations you come to after becoming a parent is that you need to be prepared for anything. While many people assume that their children will go to their closest family member if they were to die, that isn't always true. If you do not appoint a Legal Guardian for your child, anyone in your life could come forward to make a case for Legal Guardianship. There is also the possibility that your child could be placed in a foster home, even temporarily, while a court evaluates what is in your child's best interests.
Naming a Legal Guardian for your kids can mean the difference between chaos and upheaval and a safe and stable environment where a grieving child can heal.
Choosing the Right Legal Guardian
No one can raise your children exactly the way you would, but appointing a Legal Guardian gives you a say in who will raise them if you can't. Here are some things to consider when deciding on the best Legal Guardian for your child:
You may want to name more than one.
No one knows what the future holds. That is, after all, why you're going through the process of appointing a Legal Guardian. Naming three or four different Legal Guardians, rather than one person or couple, will ensure that you're able to have a say in who raises your kids, no matter what.
Don't forget to ask permission before you appoint someone a Legal Guardian.
You know better than anyone that children change your entire life. You may think that someone would be the perfect parent for your child. But they may not be able to take on the added responsibility, no matter how much they love you. If the person or people you have in mind already have children of their own, there is the possibility that they may not want to take on more.
Are they up for the challenge?
Raising a child is no easy feat. If it were, everyone would do it. There are many factors to consider when thinking about who will take over the care of your children. You have to make sure that they are prepared to take on the challenge.
An ideal Legal Guardian should be capable of taking on the physical and emotional day-to-day challenges of raising a child. They are financially stable, physically healthy, and in tune with their emotions.
Another thing to consider when choosing a Legal Guardian is the moral compass and values you wish to instill in your children. It may not be important to you that the person you appoint as a Legal Guardian doesn't vote the same as you. After all, you know they're a good person, and they love your kids. But do the values they hold closest align with yours? It’s important to you that your children grow up to be good people who do the right thing. Will the Legal Guardian you choose instill the same principles as you would?
Age is another factor in choosing a proper Guardian. You may think to appoint your parents. After all, they did a great job with you, right? But are they going to be up for chasing young children around; can they relate to older kids?
When you think of a potential Guardian's day-to-day life, you should be able to see your children fitting into it seamlessly. They should feel wanted and worthy.
Review and update your wishes frequently.
You've put a lot of careful thought and consideration into choosing the perfect Legal Guardian for your child. But just because they are the best choice now doesn't necessarily mean they always will be.
You may have chosen your sister to take over your child's care if you're gone. She's great with kids, has one of her own, and is happily married to a supportive partner. But in a few years, she may expand her family, go back to work, or go through a divorce. While she may have been honored to be chosen as a Legal Guardian initially, her circumstances may change. Reviewing and updating your Guardianship documents regularly will ensure that your children go to someone prepared and able to care for them the way they deserve.
How to Appoint a Legal Guardian with Trust & Will
A lot of things in life are impossible to prepare for, despite our best efforts. Estate Planning doesn't have to be one of them. Trust & Will can help you prepare for the future—even the parts we don't want to think about.
You know what's best for your children. Make it official with a legally-binding document designed by knowledgeable attorneys. Get started today.