Choosing a Guardian, Part 1: How to Choose A Guardian for Your Child

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

If you have kids – YOU MUST HAVE A VALID WILL.  A will is where you still have some say in who will raise your child(ren) even after your gone.  You use a will to speak when you are no longer able to in order to tell the court who you believe would be the best choice to act as guardian to your kid(s) if you (and any other parent) are no longer around.

Choosing people to serve as guardians of your children is one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make—but it’s also one of the most important.  This is especially true for nontraditional families, who may not always have the advantage of biological parentage on their side.  Likewise, it is a difficult thing to contemplate if you are a single parent.

Many parents are so paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong choice of guardians for their children that they keep putting it off, hoping that one more day (or one more week, or month) will bring an epiphany of decision.  Further, partners may disagree about whom to choose.  But delaying the process and making no decision can end up being worse than making the wrong decision.

If something happens to you and you have not nominated guardians for your children then it is quite possible that your children could be put in the care of the state Social Services until a judge can appoint guardians for them, and even then there’s no guarantee the judge will place them with the people you would have chosen. This is especially true if you would prefer to pick a guardian that is not related to you by blood or marriage.

Here are few qualities to consider that may make the decision-making process a little easier:

Age: How old do you consider to be too old (or too young) to be a guardian? You might think that your aging parents are an option as guardians—but only as a last resort.

Religion/Politics: Views on religion and politics are often indicative of a moral and world view in general.  You may not find someone whose beliefs match yours exactly, but you probably know which ethical issues are deal-breakers for you and your partner.

Parenting Style: Is a consistent parenting style important?  Perhaps you think that your brother and sister-in-law have a different discipline style than you do, but are loving parents, and are therefore people you are comfortable nominating as back-up guardians.

Location: Do you want your children to remain in their familiar school and city?  If you choose permanent guardians who will have to travel from a distant location consider also naming temporary guardians who live nearby.

Family and Finances: The inheritance you leave will likely help your chosen guardian with the financial aspect of raising your child, but you will still want to consider the family and financial situation of your guardian.  Will your only child suddenly have to adjust to having siblings?  Will your guardians need to move to a new home to accommodate their larger household?

Finding someone to replace you as a parent is impossible, but there are good and loving people in your life who may serve as a close second.  Consider people for each of the above categories and make a list.  After deliberation, you might realize that the people you feel the most comfortable asking to be guardians of your children are your dear friends, the ones you met at the parent’s club, and with whom you spend most weekends and holidays. Hopefully you will also find one or two people to name as back-up guardians as well.  Please know that this nomination isn’t permanent.  You may change your mind at any time by drafting a new will.

Coming up with your list of guardians may be the hardest thing you ever do, but creating a nomination of guardians is the b

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.