As an estate planning attorney, I find that my clients have the most difficult time when it comes to naming guardians for their minor children. This process is so daunting, it may take them weeks to get back to me with the chosen nominees. Going through this process can also bring up negative feelings about each other's relatives, which is yet another reason why clients hesitate to discuss it. The following list will help parents start a conversation in this process. I suggest first making a list of all potential people or couples you would consider naming as your children's guardians. Then consider the following for each potential person or couple:
- place of residence
- educational and cultural background
- religious and spiritual affiliations
- primary language spoken at home
- whether potential guardians have their own children
- parenting philosophy and the discipline they use with their own children
- current relationship with your children
- lifestyle choices, including smoking, drinking, eating and exercising habits.
As difficult as it is for a parent to decide on a guardian, it is much better that you make this decision, rather than a judge who does not you, your children or the potential guardians. Naming guardian(s) yourself will avoid fights between a husband and wife's side of the family and protect your families and your children from needless friction and heartache. What's more important, if there is a specific person that you strongly feel should not be your child's guardian, you can make an "anti-guardian" nomination in the same document and provide specific reasons for your decision. It is up to you to decide whether the guardian will additionally control your children's finances or whether another party (a trustee) will handle the financial aspects of their inheritance.