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There is probably no issue in the estate planning process more difficult for a parent than selecting someone to be the guardian of their minor children.  The reality is there is nobody you select that will be able to raise your minor children as well as you.  

The goal is not to name the perfect guardian, but rather the person who would be the best guardian!  

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Who would my children be most comfortable with?

  • Where does the guardian live?  It is an understatement to say losing both parents is traumatic on a minor child.  Thus, maintaining some semblance of normalcy will help your minor children work through the grieving process.  If the person you select as the guardian lives in a different city or state, this will likely necessitate your children changing schools, teachers, friends, coaches, places of worship, pastors, and possibly other family members.  Essentially, this will add additional stress during an already stress filled situation.

  • What is the guardian’s parenting philosophy?  Does the guardian possess similar ideas about parenting, discipline and values?

  • Does the guardian have children of their own?  Someone that already has a large family may find it difficult to expand their family to include your children.  

  • To what extent is the guardian able to provide extra time, attention, love and support to your children?  Someone whose job requires them to work 60 hours per week may not be able to give the extra time and support your children will need as they work through the grieving process.

  • Is the guardian physically up to the task?  This issue may become more pronounced when naming parents to serve in this role.  Keep in mind that the guardian will serve until all of your minor children are adults.  In families with very young children, this could be many years.  Will your guardian still be up to the task 10 or 15 years from now?

  • Does guardian place the same value on religion as you? What faith tradition does the guardian belong to?  The importance of this issue will vary from client to client.  If your religious beliefs are important, you may wish to consider whether the guardian will raise your children in the same religion.  Also consider the frequency with which the guardian attends religious services.

As mentioned above, it is extremely unlikely you will be able to identify a guardian (let alone a backup guardian) that will meet all of the criteria listed above.   Keep in mind the goal is not to find the perfect match as this person simply does not exist.  Rather the goal is to determine what level of importance you place on each of these issues and then select the person that comes closest to meeting these criteria.

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