By: Barry G. Allen- President & CEO
As a parent you may find this question a difficult one to answer. I trust, however, you will agree it is a crucial question you must answer – and – the sooner the better. Not to answer this question leaves the fate of your “orphaned” child entirely up to a stranger, namely, a judge. Therefore, naming a guardian for minor children in a will is one of the most important stewardship actions a parent should perform.
Remember, a guardian isn’t forever. If you decide to change the guardian you can always make that change either with a codicil to your will or a new will. For example, if your child or children are young, their grandparents may be the best choice; however, when they become teenagers, grandparents may no longer be the wisest choice. The person or persons you choose do not have to be blood relatives; it should be someone you feel would be the best surrogate parent.
Geography, religion, education, family size, financial resources and lifestyle are also important factors in choosing a guardian. You might decide an aunt, your sister, is the clear choice, but she lives quite a distance away in another state. As a result, your children could be uprooted from their community, church and school at a time in their lives when they most need those relationships.
After considering all of the relevant factors, you may conclude you still have not identified the “perfect” candidate, and therefore, you continue to delay the decision. Perhaps in such cases an imperfect choice would be better than no choice at all.
And, finally, I recommend you talk in advance to the one you choose, and secure his or her consent before naming them. Although the law does not require it, it’s the prudent thing to do. Even though the overwhelming majority of guardians named in wills never have to fulfill the duty because most minors reach age 18 with at least one parent alive, it’s wise stewardship to name one. So, parents, don’t wait! And, grandparents, make sure your children have taken care of this for the sake of your grandchildren.