Who Should I Pick To Be the Guardian of My Child?

A lot of families put off drafting wills because they can’t decide who they want to be the guardian of their child. They know they need to be prepared, but they get hung up on this very important life decision. I have a few basic rules that I share with my clients, which help them get over the hurdle:

  1. You are the best person to raise your child, anyone else is second best – but you still need to pick someone.
  2. Think of the person who you least want to care for your kid if something should happen to you, that's who will get him or her if you don't name a guardian.
  3. No one will ever win a fight with their spouse or partner over whose parents will do a better raising the child, so agree that neither set of grandparents will be the guardians and pick someone else.
  4. The child's aunts or uncles can be better choices for a guardian because your siblings are more likely to be able to care for your child until the child reaches adulthood, as opposed to a grandparent who may not due to advanced age.
  5. The guardian of your child does not have to be a family member. It can be a close friend or someone else in your support system who knows your wishes about how you would like your child to be raised.

I suggest you take these rules, and then apply the decision making process that works best for you. Some couples make lists and then sit down and hash out the pros and cons of each person on the list. Others might prefer to relax one evening after the kid goes to bed, open a bottle of wine, and just have a conversation.

Not everyone can make the decision on their own. If you’re reaching an impasse with your spouse or partner, rather than make this a source of conflict, enlist the help of a counselor, family mediator, or some other trusted advisor to help you through the process. You both want what’s best for your children – you just need some help to get there.

The last step is to talk to your potential guardian about whether they are up for the job, and how you want your child to be raised if the guardian has to assume care for him or her. Some people draft detailed letters that they keep with their wills that provide these instructions.

These aren’t fun conversations to have, but you need to do it – and you will sleep better at night knowing that it’s all in place.

Want to read more? Parents magazine recently did a great article on picking a guardian.