There are many reasons why everyone should have a will. One of the most important is determining who will be the guardian for your children. You really don’t want a judge deciding who would be the best person to raise your child.
Does the guardian share your religious beliefs?
As a Christian this was my most important question. I could not entrust the eternity of my child with someone that did not share similar beliefs to mine.
What is the age and health of the guardian?
Many times the first candidate that comes to mind may be your parents, and perhaps they are the most qualified. Often times grandparents do end up raising their grand kids when unfortunate events happen. But consider their age and health, particularly if your children are very young. Perhaps they are in good shape today, but are they likely to still be in good shape in 15 years? Obviously, none of us have a crystal ball to perfectly predict the future, but you should do your best to consider the likelihood your guardian will be capable of raising your child to adulthood.
Does the candidate share similar values?
I’ve already mentioned religious beliefs, but what about other values? How do they view education? Do they believe in public schools? Private schools? Home schooling? Do they handle their finances in a way that will set the example you desire for your children? How about their views on work? Conservative values? Liberal values? There are many values beyond religious values. If there are values that are very important to you, will your candidate help instill those same values in your children?
Where does the potential guardian live?
Will your child have to change school systems? Will your child be close to other family members? Will your child be able to maintain their same friends? Does your candidate live in a neighborhood where you would want your children raised?
What is their philosophy of parenting?
Do they have kids of their own? Are their children well behaved or not so much? What are their views on discipline? How closely does their parenting philosophy match your own?
Do they have the time/room/capacity to take on your children?
Would caring for your child create a hardship for them? Do they work a job that requires them to spend a lot of time away from home? Do they have a small house and therefore there isn’t much room to add your children to their family? How many children do they have? Will they be able to care for your children too? If you have more than one child, will they be able to care for all of your children?
Are they financially secure?
Will taking care of your children create a financial hardship for the guardian? Ideally, you should make sure that you can provide enough money that your children can have their needs met without requiring a large expenditure from your potential guardian. If you do not have much in savings, you should have enough life insurance to make sure there is sufficient money available to care for your child. It’s a topic for another post but you should also consider whether your guardian will have control of the money you leave behind, or if you want to appoint a separate trustee to provide an additional layer of accountability.
Is your candidate newly married?
We don’t like to think about such things, but divorce does happen. What would you want to happen to your child if your guardians were to get divorced? Who would you want to have custody of your children? Or what if one of them dies? Would you be ok with the other raising your children?
Does your child have a good relationship with your candidate?
Let’s face it. If something were to happen to you, it would be devastating for your children. Will the guardian you have chosen be able to help them through their grief? Does your child have a good relationship with them now? If they have children does your child get along with their children well?
Are they willing to be the guardian for your children?
You need to have a very open, honest conversation with the person you have chosen. Make sure they know that it is ok to say no. Be certain that they really are willing to take on the responsibility of raising your child should something happen you.
Part of loving your family well
I know these are things we don’t want to think about. One reason many people do not have a will is that it forces them to consider their own mortality. But regardless of whether we want to think about it, we will all die someday. Hopefully, you will live a long healthy life and live to see not only your grandchildren, but also your great grandchildren. There are no guarantees though. Making sure that you have thoughtfully considered who would raise your children if the unthinkable should happen is one very important way for you to love your family well.
Do you have a will? Have you determined who would be the guardian of your children if something happened to you?
Photo credit: Lisa L. Wiedmeier (creative commons)