If you have minor children, your estate plan must provide for their care should you die or become so disabled that you can no longer be a parent to them. Whomever is to fulfil this awesome responsibility must be chosen after some very careful thought. But what are the qualities you should look for in a guardian?

Key Considerations for a Guardian

Shared Values. Make sure that you choose someone with whom you have shared values, religious beliefs (ensuring that your children will continue to be raised in their Catholic faith), goals and parenting styles.

Emotional Support and Comfort. Think about whether this person loves (or is at least fond of) your children! Remember, they need to be able to nurture them. It should be someone your children know and with whom they feel comfortable. Consider that the trauma of losing both parents can be mitigated if the child’s guardian is a person with whom the child is already comfortable. For these reasons, a family member or close family friend who already has a bond with the children can be a good choice.

You may want to discuss your choice with an older child as many judges will consider the preferences of teenagers in appointing a guardian. It is also possible to name different guardians for different children. Although most parents probably want their children raised in the same home, family dynamics, the children’s ages, and sexes may make different guardians preferable.

Financial Resources. As you know, raising children isn’t cheap! So unless you have provided substantial financial assets, the person you choose should also be financially capable of doing so.

Age and Health. You should select someone who is young enough to fulfill the duties until your child becomes an adult. He or she should be in good health and have the stamina necessary for raising children. Although physical disabilities do not prevent someone from being a good parent, it would be wise to think about health considerations that may shorten an individual’s life expectancy or capacity to be a parent. For this reason, while you may be considering your parents as guardians, they are more likely to predecease you than persons in your age group or younger.

Location. If possible, select a guardian who lives nearby or who is willing to relocate to where your children live. By doing this, you can avoid the trauma to your children of enrolling in a new school or form friendships in an unfamiliar area.

Character. Be careful not to choose someone that a court would not approve as a guardian, such as a person who has abused drugs or alcohol, or who has a criminal record. You would not want this either, so you need to know this person very well.

So What Should I Do?

I recommend that everyone with minor children should have an estate plan that names a guardian. If you want more information about estate plans, what documents are included, and things you need to think about to prepare them, then I recommend that you download my free book, A Guide to Creating Your Estate Plan. It will get you a long way towards achieving that goal.

But if you live in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland counties, have decided that you need to put together an estate plan, and are ready to move forward to create one, then just click here to schedule a free, no obligation phone call to discuss it.

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Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.