Updated on 03.14.11

Should We Become Named Guardians for Several Children?

Trent Hamm

A few days ago, Sarah and I went out to dinner with another couple that we’ve been friends with for a long time – we’ve actually known the female in the couple for almost two decades. They live several hours away from us and we don’t get to see them terribly often, but we make it a point to see them at least a few times a year.

At that dinner, the couple asked Sarah and I if they could name us as guardians for their children in their will. We told them that we would have to give the decision some serious thought and discussion, and unsurprisingly it’s been a significant topic of discussion between Sarah and myself over the past few days.

Because this is an issue that other families are sometimes faced with, I thought I’d share some of our thought process with you with regards to this decision. I should point out that we haven’t made a final decision yet.

As is usually the case, we’ve made a list of reasons why we should do this, along with a list of reasons why we shouldn’t do this.

Why We Should Do It
The biggest reason is that their children will really need us if they lose their parents. We may be the best option they have for a stable life that offers some degree of continuity with their life with their parents. To me, this is the biggest reason for us to do this.

There’s also the consideration that it would take a weight off of the minds of our friends right now. As their family has grown, their concerns about child guardianship has grown as well. The simple knowledge that their children would be in a stable home if they were to pass would take some stress off of their shoulders.

We also would not have significant financial concerns, as they have strong life insurance policies and would change them to have us as secondary beneficiaries. According to my math, the amount received would actually exceed the amount needed to continue raising their children in their stead. If we properly used the money received from the insurance, we would be able to provide for the new children fairly well.

Why We Shouldn’t Do It
The big reason against doing this is that we’re unsure of our capacity to raise that many children. This would suddenly add several children on top of the three we already have, and frankly Sarah and I are unsure that we would be able to do this and still give each of those children the love and support they would need.

This really breaks down into three main “sub-concerns.”

First, would we be able to continue to be great parents for our own children? Our time would be spread more thinly and we would have less time for one-on-one interaction with our own children if more were suddenly introduced.

Second, would we be able to also be great parents for the new children? This is similar to the above concern, of course, but it’s also an issue when we compare ourselves to other potential outcomes for these children. With that many children under one roof, are we really the best option for them?

Finally, would we be able to have a functional and satisfying marriage with that many children? There are times where three children puts our marriage under stress. What would we do with several more children?

Clearly, we would have to adjust some significant portions of our life if this occurred. Sarah may return to a stay-at-home mom status, for example, and I may have to find some assistance with maintaining The Simple Dollar.

This is one of those moments in life where there is no clear “right” choice. There are two choices, each with good and bad elements to them, and each with serious consequences. Such decisions should never be taken lightly.

I’ll let you know when we make up our mind.

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  1. Anna says:

    I asked my brother & his wife to be guardians of my two children, then aged 6 & 7 (they are now 13 & 14, and I’m still kickin’). His answer? “Sure, if you have enough life insurance.” So I got enough (500K/ 20 year term). This may be something you need to establish with your friends before making a final decision. Raising children is indeed expensive — raising your friends’ children in case of tragedy would be more joyful and much less stressful if they’ve taken care of the financial worry ahead of time.

  2. jessie says:

    I come from a large (and very happy for it!) family that has considered this issue in the past. Here are some thoughts you’ve probably considered, but just in case:

    I am assuming that the children are around the same age as your own children but if not, that might worth considering as well. If there is a large age difference, you may find it easier, as one group of children would be needing less constant attention and supervision than the other.

    Other points to consider: are there so many children that you would have to change your home / car? Is it likely that your friends will have more children? Is it likely that you’ll have more kids? What is your friend’s relationship to their family/siblings/other friends who might be hurt by this decision – will you potentially have a custody battle on your hands? Do you friends have any restrictions or wishes for their children’s futures that conflict with your own (attending certain schools, religious institutions, etc)? Are you prepared to handle the psychological issues that will be faced by children who are now parentless and forced to relocate, in addition to raising them? Are you committed to seeing this family much more often over the next few years so that, should something happen, you are not strangers to these children?

    Best of luck with your decision – it’s a hard one, but an important discussion to have.

  3. jessie says:

    Oh, and one more thing I forgot – have you asked someone to be the guardian of YOUR children? If so, you would need to have a discussion with them as well, as you’re effectively signing them up for that many more children should something happen to you both. If not, you’ll need to make sure that whoever you assign guardianship to in future knows about the agreement you’ve made and is okay with the possibility of however many children on top of their own if they have them. This has been a point of discussion in a family with many siblings who have kids of their own, so I know it’s a big one to consider.

  4. RichC says:

    I’m glad you are taking this seriously … but your answer should be ‘yes.’ The ‘why we shouldn’t’ questions are valid concerns, but disappear in my mind IF your friends children are without parents … you would step up to the task, as would your own children. It is the right thing to do.

  5. Sarah G says:

    I’m glad you are giving it the serious consideration it deserves. More I applaud your friends for asking – may people fail to plan for the worst or fail to confirm their selection for guardian because they don’t want the conversation. Even if you say no, they have the time to find a couple who can take care of their children, just in case.

    I hope you have also taken the time to find and name guardians if something should happen to you and Sarah.

  6. KC says:

    I don’t have children, but I have been married 10 years and am 38 years old. But it seems to me you wouldn’t be “worse” parents for your children – you’d be different parents. It isn’t like you have a finite amount of love and compassion that would be split up from 3 children to however many it would be with these new kids – with everyone getting less love. There might not be as much direct attention, but the family as a whole would be more involved with everyone’s lives. Things would certainly be different, but I’m not sure that would be worse.

    What about the grandparents? Do these friends have parents who would care for the children? What is their proximity to you? In other words if these friends died tomorrow would the grandparents be involved raising these kids? Would they want and be able to provide a significant role in their lives and thus helping you as guardians? How old are these people (if they are in their 50s that’s good, if they are in their 70s not as good for the long term)?

    This is a huge decision and one I think you should have at lest a month to think about. But look at all sides. Sure there are negative aspects, but what are the positives. When you are 70 years old how do you think you’d feel about this?

  7. Johanna says:

    A female human being is called a “woman.”

  8. trish says:

    One thing to consider – if the tables were turned would you want someone to be willing to be guardians for your children if you died? If the parents have good life insurance and you are sure the children’s needs would be adequately taken care of then you are right – your own children’s needs and the needs of your marriage should be considered.

    But – if the amount of life insurance is more than adequate you could hire a housekeeper or a nanny to help out. People with large families often do. Also – if the new children had relatives still living I am sure they would want to have some kind of visitation and those periods of time (holidays) would give you time alone with your birth children. And if you sent your children to visit your families at the same time it would give you and your wife a ‘vacation’ once a year or so all alone.

    There is always ‘date night’ where every so often you and your wife could go out alone.

    You do things differently with a large family. Your priorities change a little.

    Good luck and God bless!

  9. valleycat1 says:

    I have 4 siblings, and have many friends with even more, and all of us had happy fulfilling lives growing up, knowing our parents loved us. Granted, incorporating someone else’s children into your family while they’re dealing with a major tragedy would be an entirely different situation, but stepfamilies manage to combine and work through their issues. As long as it’s done thoughtfully & with open eyes, as you & Sarah seem to be assessing the situation, it’s doable.

    I’ll be interested to hear about your final decision.

  10. AnnJo says:

    @Johanna – That usage jarred me too.

  11. nickyt says:

    There are events in our lives that we can never fully be prepared for, despite all of our best planning. However, for those who have built a solid foundation, even the most difficult of unforeseen events can not shake them.

    You and your wife have built that solid foundation. You have a marriage where active and open communication is the norm. You live according to solid financial decisions. Your children have known from they day they were born that their well-being in the most important aspect of your life. You trust firmly in your faith and spiritual beliefs, so nothing easily sways you. Is there really a situation that you and your family could encounter that you would not come out better on the other side for?

    And what kind of lesson would you be teaching your own children? Hopefully, nothing would ever happen to your friends and you would never have to “make good” on the promise. But your children would grow up knowing that you cared enough about someone outside your family to make them a part of your family should theirs be taken away. That is a huge lesson for a child (and an adult). Should something happen to your friends, and their children became a part of your family, it is the ultimate example of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. There wouldn’t be less love to go around. Only more because there are more children.

  12. SwingCheese says:

    This is interesting, because my husband and I were discussing this very topic, vis a vis choosing someone to name as guardian for our little boy. We agreed that my parents would be the first choice, but we wanted a second option, in case something were to happen to my parents (who will be 78 and 76 when he graduates from high school). Although we enjoy our friends, when it come to choosing someone who we thought would be the best fit, it was a difficult decision. We finally decided on our good friend and former babysitter, who is like family. I’m asking her this weekend. It was just very hard to have this discussion – the idea of not being there to raise our son was upsetting to both of us. If I were in your position, I would say yes – despite all the potential negatives, there are many potential positives.

  13. Gretchen says:

    How many children are we talking here?

    Do you have plans for your children’s guardians?

  14. Allie says:

    Thirding the idea that the phrasing of “the female in the couple” is just weird. Johanna is right, you mean to say woman. Or is Trent’s usage so stilted that he would also say “the male in the couple” instead of calling a man a man?

    Seriously, male and female are adjectives, not nouns. Trying to use the adjectives because you think they sound more formal actually just sounds silly.

  15. Ellen K. says:

    Good post. We have chosen my brother to be legal guardian of our toddler daughters. My brother is married, and his wife would be an excellent parent — others agree; they are elected guardians to 7 children among 3 families! But our lawyer VERY strongly advised only naming one person as legal guardian and beneficiary. You’ve named some essential pros and cons, but I think you should also consider how you would handle guardianship and trusteeship if your own marriage ended in divorce. Are you both equally close to the couple?

    As the first poster mentioned, the children’s extended family is another consideration. I think you should ask your friends why they haven’t chosen a relative. It’s not a rude question — they’ve asked you to be guardians, which is huge, and you are entitled to ask for information beyond insurance provisions. I’m not implying that a relative is a better choice than a friend in general… often the relative would be a worse choice. But family dynamics are important, and tragedy can bring families together or drive them farther apart. Will you be seen as taking the kids away from their family? Do you know any of your friends’ relatives? Do you like them? Are you willing to set aside time and major holidays for visitation? How far would you have to travel? How would that affect your time with your children and your own extended family? Lastly, how would you handle relatives’ criticism of or interference in how you are raising the children?

  16. J.D. says:

    Another usage pet peeve: “the couple asked Sarah and I” should be “the couple asked Sarah and me”. I’d usually let this slide, but I’ve heard and seen it so many times lately that it makes me want to cry — and from smart people, too. Use the “Sarah and I” construction if you’re the subject of the sentence, not if you’re the object.

  17. Leslie says:

    As a widow with minor children I would just say that
    you would need to be prepared for the emotional roller coaster that the loss of the parents would mean to the children. It could be very intense.
    One of my children has had a very difficult time with the loss of his father. Lots of doctor appts, lots of anger, highs and lows. Its a wonderful thing to do, but I think not as easy as everyone thinks it is.

  18. Cheryl says:

    My husband and I have had this discussion. We are both only children. Our grown daughter is a single mother and has enough on her plate at the moment. Our lawyer advised us that we could pick a person to decide who would care for our son. She would probably not take him into her home, but would decide at the time what would be best for him. We make sure to see this person several times a year and keep her appraised of what is going on in our lives.

  19. Maureen says:

    I agree with Trish that you could hire someone to help care for the children so that it would be not be necessary to change your employment arrangements. I would ask your friends if they are planning to extend their family further. You need to know how large your family might grow. You should also consider whether you and Sarah are planning to have more children yourselves. If the numbers get very large you may need to relocate.

    I presume you were concerned with protecting this cople’s anonymity, but calling your friend ‘the female’ is a bit stilted.

  20. M.L. says:

    My dad and his two sisters were adopted by their aunt when they were young (their parents died within months of each other, they were in their late 30’s). At the time my Aunt was engaged but not yet married so she had to rush to Vegas with her fiance to get married in order to adopt, as in the 50’s they didn’t allow single women to adopt children. She and her fiance changed their whole life to suddenly take on 3 children, and while I know your situation is different (i.e. they didn’t have any children of her own and they were relatives) my Grandma (who is biologically just my Great Aunt) says she wouldn’t have done it any other way. She gave up her career and never had children of her own. For my own part I’m so thankful to her that she provided a wonderful second chance for my Dad and his sisters to grow up with a great Mom and Dad; they may not have had that if she hadn’t been willing to adopt them.

  21. Linda says:

    As parents of grown children, we are past the necessity of deciding guardianship. Other factors that come into play, though, are for how long (at what age do you consider guardianship over, or what milestones will need to have been met. In other words, is guardianship automatically done at 18 or when child graduates from college?), what about the separation of finances? My mother’s estate was used to provide for all the children in a mixed family when I was growing up. This short changed my resources for a college education on behalf of a private high school for other children (I attended a public school.). My personal bias is to separate the functions of parenting from guardianship, if there is an estate to be left for the children, let someone manage it impartially who is not involved with the day to day expenses of several children making it hard to separate what gets spent on who.

  22. Patty says:

    We don’t have any kids yet but are listed as gaurdian for a few family and friends.
    You should be honored that they have asked you and proud as they are not only highlighting your very close friendship but also their confidence in your parenting ability. Not everyone has the flexibility and stability to take this on as your family does.
    As far as a time commitment, I don’t kow the ages of the children but at some point they will be in school allowing for you to keep up your work during those hours.
    You have to understand that you won’t be able to raise them exactly as their parents would but you will be able to raise them in a way that their parents approve of, otherwise they would not have asked you.

  23. Squirrelers says:

    Very personal choice here. With that said, I’d consider what I would want someone to do for me if I was in that situation. Frankly, unless the couple is in bad health, the chances of you actually needing to do something are probably remote anyway.

  24. JackieBooks says:

    You don’t have to say yes (this is obviously a HUGE request), but if they asked you instead of asking their own family members, it surely says something about your parenting skills and suitability to raise more children if need be. Keeping in mind this situation likely won’t happen, but imagine if it did and you said no–perhaps these kids might be in a worse spot. I only say this because I am an orphan and my parents didn’t name any guardians in their will, and the way things ended up was that friends of the family (not my actual family) were the ones that came forward and offered assistance.

  25. Pat S. says:

    This is kind of a doomsday scenario. I think you should consider the level of trust that your friends put into you for even asking. This is a vote of confidence from them in your ability to raise their most precious legacies. I can’t say what to do here, but think the level of trust exhibited by your friends indicate how they feel you would do…

  26. Rebecca says:

    Asking grandparents to be named guardians isn’t always a good idea. I know that if my husb and I died my parents and my inlaws would be part of caring for our three kids, but all of our parents are pushing 60 or older and are starting to have some significant health issues. Even if a grandparent is young, say 50 and takes on the care of a young child full time, they will essentially be raising a child into their 70’s. This may not be in the best interests of the child/ren, or the wishes of the grandparents.

    I know my husb and I are dealing with this issue right now. We have 3 kids ages 6, 5 and 2.5. Our 2 oldest are autistic. Both my husb and I have siblings who are married and have a child each, but they would not be good choices to raise special needs children, esp because we would not want to split up our kids. We have few friends, mostly because raising children with intense needs is very alienating. So what happens if we die? Right now we just don’t know.

  27. amy says:

    i agree that it is a big deal and requires careful consideration… but from the other side – the people deciding who would get the honor of caring for their children for whatever remains of their childhood in the event of their death. i think you are approaching this situation from a very selfish mindset, and if i was the “female” who asked you to care for my children in the event that my husband and i DIED and i knew how you were “carefully considering”, i would withdraw my request. just saying.

  28. Mister E says:

    At least they asked.. I was simply told by an old friend that he and his female (heh) had named my wife and I as guardians to their two daughters.

    We were honoured but not entirely comfortable with the idea especially since we haven’t yet had kids of our own but definitely intend to and if something did happen then that could really throw a wrench into those plans.

    But we were really the only legitimate option for this couple – he has no family outside of ailing parents and there are long standing issues of child sexual abuse in her family. Most of their friends are at best unreliable and at worst junkies. So we did agree, after the fact.

    But still, at least they asked.

  29. Telephus44 says:

    Don’t all these same subconcerns also apply when deciding if you want to have children/have more children?

    Aside from that, my husband and I are still grappling with this. Outside of our parents, we don’t have any close friends/family our age that I would want to parent my child – their parenting styles/values are different enough that I wouldn’t want them to raise my child. So I’m stuck with the “grandparents are really getting old” issue.

  30. Ted says:

    An advantage you failed to list:

    A potentially richer experience growing up for your own kids.

    You seem to indicate in your list that it would all be a down side for your kids, but that’s not necessarily the case. It would change some things to be sure, but I’m not sure it would be for the worse.

  31. Somehow I find it a disturbing idea, that guardianship could be given in a will. That sounds like considering children as something that can be owned…

  32. Interested Reader says:

    I don’t have any direct experience, but my Mom was raised with several cousins at various times. None of them for the entire time she was growing up, but one of her cousins lived with them for several years. She’s still very close to him and it wasn’t a bad experience for her. And her families resources were much more limited than yours are right now.

    My paternal grandmother was also raised with various cousins living with her family. People died a lot younger then and in her case 2 of her aunts died about the same time (one an expected death of cancer, the other unexpectedly of pnemonia) and that left 6-8 kids that were sent to live with various relatives.

  33. Stephan F- says:

    You have been given a very big honor, especially since they are considering you over family. Those are some very real friends. Make sure to tell them how much you appreciate this whichever way you decide. We’ve been discussing this as well at home and with family.

    Love isn’t a pie you don’t get smaller pieces if more people show up. That isn’t to say things wouldn’t change if their children came into your home, all the children would get less time, but not less love.

    You might want to consider dates night not just with your spouse but with each child individually so they get some me time with daddy and/or mommy. I knew a family with 12 children that did that and they seemed fine.

  34. Tizzle says:

    What an interesting discussion. I don’t have kids, and nobody I know would name me a guardian, but this goes hand in hand with talk about wills and end of life care, and all that family stuff. I just asked my dad about it the other day and discovered that my aunt and uncle would have been our guardians (and that he’s adequately provided for his own elder care).

    One doesn’t want the most financially well off people to take care of their kids if they die, they want the best parents.

    Patty @11 — How would you handle being a guardian to more than one set of kids? If there were a tragedy in one family, would you tell the others you no longer have the ability? Not being critical, just curious.

  35. Michelle says:

    Trent- I can tell you from personal experience, after taking in my cousins 2 children, on top of my own 3 children, that taking in these children will do nothing but bless your life. My cousin was a single father, who died unexpectedly, with no will. His mother (my aunt) has health problems and couldn’t take them, so, as the youngest, and healthiest member of my family, I volunteered. It has been hard. Really, really, hard, but absolutely worth it. My capacity to love has grown, and I have seen my children grow and accept their cousins as their siblings. Taking care of 5 children is tiring, but my husband comes home for lunch most days, and we have lunch with the 2 youngest. And we make sure that we spend some time together after they are all in bed, we can’t afford a babysitter, but brownies on the couch are a nice night for us.

    Don’t be afraid. You can do this, and your life will be better for it.

  36. Kenia says:

    Just to inject an engineering point of view (obviously this is a very personal decision, but I can’t help to focus on some of the analytics): what you are doing here is a form of risk management. There is a certain risk involved if you were to take on the guardianship role. So far you’ve done half the job of risk mitigation: identified the pros and cons of taking on guardianship. But you also need to apply the other principle of risk management, and that is the PERCENT CHANCE of your friends staying alive vs. passing. Of course, in life, you can never predict the future: but I think it’s safe to assume that your friends dying is less of a likelihood than them staying alive and, therefore, the weight (if you were to apply some sort of point/weight system to each of the pros and cons) of the consequences of what would occur if they passed would be reduced since, statistically, the likelihood is slim of those consequences occurring.

  37. Susan says:

    In Canada, you can name whomever you wish as guardians but once your children get older (12ish) the courts will ask them their wishes and decide accordingly. Even if your children are younger than 12, should family members not agree with the wishes in your will then they can also apply to the courts to have the decision reviewed.

  38. Cheryl says:

    re: grandparents really getting old issue.
    There are thousands of grandparents in the US raising their grandchildren. This is mostly due to drug use and mental illness on the part of the parents, but still, it happens more than you might guess. DH and I are in our 60’s with a 10yo. At the time, there were no other family choices for him and once we had him in foster care for a few months there was no way we would give him up. It did really change our retirement plans.

  39. mary w says:

    “they have strong life insurance policies and would change them to have us AS SECONDARY BENEFICIARIES”

    Not exactly sure what “secondary beneficiaries” means. Trent seems to think it means he and Sarah get the money to raise the kids. I think that means there is someone in first place to get the money. The money is definitely something to be understood before agreeing.

    It should also be noted that the friends could change potential guardians in the future as circumstances change. One of my sisters named another sister in a different city as guardian. Several years later it was changed to her husband’s niece. The niece was late-20s, married and living in the same city. At that point it was more important for the children to stay in the same environment. The paid-off house would have been a great boon to the niece.

    Luckily all the planning was theoretical and no one died.

  40. Baley says:

    Even if you would choose to stick with 3 kids in your family under normal circumstances, the tragic circumstance of your friends’ deaths would probably warrant taking on the extra responsibility. If you would be the best choice for the children, then you should probably say yes. The likelihood of you becoming their guardians is slim, so the benefits seem to outweigh the risks. I’m not sure if this helps or is clear, but thanks for the thoughts on the matter. We’re trying to decide on guardians for our coming baby, and I’d hope that whomever we ask puts serious thought into agreeing or not.

  41. Maggie says:

    I don’t want to come down on either side of the question, but do want to add another possible outcome if you said yes: those kids would know in advance that it would be you folks if something happened. This might mean that the kids might confide in you from time to time at those moments when talking to mom and dad doesn’t feel ok. Having the trust of kids outside your own family might enrich your lives considerably, even in the most-likely event that you are never called upon to actually be guardians.

    I must say I applaud the way you’re thinking about this. When our kids were small we asked the folks we were naming, but it never seemed like anybody gave it this level of serious thought before replying. (either way). Kudos to you for this level of attention.

  42. I agree with Ted, Michelle, and a few others. The article seems to indicate that growing a family is only a negative for the children already there and. Love tends to grow rather than shrink when more people are involved. Things would be different and how you define being a ‘great parent’ might change, but different and worse are not synonyms. I used to believe smaller is better. I was an only child with a single mother, but since marrying into a large family I get to see the other side of the family spectrum. They wouldn’t change a thing and tend to believe that the more people you add to a family the better. The experience and benefits from having more siblings is something that I used to discount, but it seems to be a concrete benefit.

  43. Jane says:

    We still haven’t named guardians for our two young children, mainly because we have no idea what to do. All of our friends have multiple children, and honestly I don’t want my kids to grow up as the five and sixth children. Plus, what would happen at holidays? I wouldn’t expect our friends to have to accommodate our families, but that would break grandparents’ hearts to not spend time with the boys. If they did spend holidays with our families instead of their adopted family, wouldn’t that make them feel caught between two families?

    We are both close to our parents, but they are older, which is also not ideal. Our three siblings are definitely not in a position to take them. My brother is single, my sister a single mom to two, and my husband’s brother a single dad to two. None of these scenarios are ideal, but I think we would probably have the children raised by one or more of their grandparents. I just came to the conclusion that I think if at all possible, children should remain with family.

  44. Miguel says:

    “A female human being is called a “woman.””

    And a “woman” as far as I can remember is a female, so I don’t see what’s is the big deal.

  45. Tara C says:

    My father has 10 siblings, and my mother has 5 siblings, and there was always enough love to go around, so I don’t think that is the biggest criteria.

    What my parents did was name one of their siblings who had no girls to be my guardian, and one of their siblings who had no boys to be my brother’s guardian. That way they felt no one would be overly burdened with 2 extra kids all of a sudden, and would get to have the experience of a child of the opposite sex. I always thought this was an interesting approach.

    I agree that this speaks very highly of your parenting skills that this couple would ask you to be named as guardians of their children. Definitely worthy of careful consideration.

  46. marta says:

    @Miguel, saying “female” instead of “woman” feels dehumanising. Such usage is best reserved for scientific papers or animals.

    I don’t expect you to understand that, though.

  47. Lex says:

    I’d say yes. Then again you just say they have “several” children. I think the considerations would vary according to that actual number. If you are friends with the Duggars then I’d understand refusing.

  48. Carole says:

    Iknew of a woman who became the guardian of a young boy. She immediately placed him in a children’s home. People who knew said she was an alcoholic so it was probably the best thing to do. She must have been chosen because there was no one else.

  49. bogart says:

    As I understand it, one can name guardians, but if the need arrives the court actually decides whether or not to respect the late parents’ named wishes (generally, yes), and then asks the guardian(s) whether they are willing to serve in that role. If the (named) guardians decide against doing so at that point — and of course, their situations may have changed dramatically since they agreed to take on the role — I believe they are often invited to suggest alternatives. We’ve named a total of 5 different prospective guardians for our son, in part because we recognize that what made sense (in terms of their own situations and our son’s) when we wrote our wills may not make sense, indefinitely. Obviously we can also update as necessary, but having a ranked list (first choice, second choice, etc.) and hoping that they’ll have the sense to make reasonable decisions depending on their own situations should the need arise, reduces the need to do so.

    I’ve heard it’s generally recommended that one name an individual rather than a couple as a prospective guardian lest, god forbid, the couple separates or divorces, leaving it unclear who the intended/preferred guardian is.

    I’m indifferent between “female” and “woman,” and I am one — make that both!

  50. deRuiter says:

    At that dinner, the couple asked Sarah and I…” Do you use this because you don’t know “me” is correct? How about, “…topic of discussion between Sarah and myself…” where you also don’t know it should be “me”? Trent, take some of the money you’re harvesting from this site, and buy a book on English grammar. For a “passionate” writer you sure churn out a slew of typos, bad editing, poor grammar.

  51. Grandparent says:

    this is a decision that has ramifications which change over time…no way to know what one’s age, stage and circumstances will be when the possible need to enact the guardianship might occur. Plus, as painful and heart rending as the decision might be, one isn’t forced by the courts to actually assume the responsibility of guardianship stipulated. If, for instance, at the time a tragedy strikes family #2 and the children are in need of guardianship family #1 is coping with a tragedy of its own there are real and legitimate reasons for declining even though the original intent to assume this responsibility was genuine. But…it is a decision that deserves considerable thought. Finally, while we don’t know how many “several” is, it goes without saying that the number of children has significant bearing on anyone’s ability to assume responsibility for “several” versus fewer.

  52. honey says:

    As a single mom, this is a subject that I have spent considerable time thinking about. My child’s dad will be next in line to get her if something happens to me (he is very involved & a good dad). I have listed him and then multiple back ups in my will JUST IN CASE. Would not want his family to have her full time if something should happen to him. I have also set up all finances in a trust & named the executer of the trust as my sister. He would get our child but not one penny of my money intended for the child. He is not good with finances…. my sister is kind & fair & would ensure that my child has what she needs & that the she would get the money. It would also be an incentive to not cut ties with my family should something happen to me…don’t think it would be necessry, but just sayin’ you never know!

  53. GayleRN says:

    What no one has mentioned here is that you will also be responsible to the courts for these kids. This means filing a ton of paperwork, and possibly being subjected to home inspection and intrusions by social workers and so on. As a guardian and conservator (two different things BTW) I have to file reports on at least a yearly basis detailing conditions and what has been done that year. As a conservator, I must file reports on finances, monies received and how they were spent and invested. In addition, you have to deal with Social Security and file reports with them. It is not just a matter of child care. There are legal requirements that can be quite onerous.

  54. Marle says:

    Seconding Johanna. “Female” is an adjective, it shouldn’t be used by itself. “Female friend” is find, but if you don’t have a noun to use for her just say “woman.”

    If I was asked to care for a child if something happened to their parent(s), I would feel morally required to say yes, and I wouldn’t give a second thought to any doubts. When my birth mother was pregnant with me, she asked her sister if she’d take me if anything happened. Well, something did happen, and she took me in and adopted me. We have a very small family, and I’m not sure if anyone else could have taken me in. I’ve known people who lived in foster care for years, and I am very glad that I didn’t have to.

    If there was someone better to take the child, the parent would ask them instead of you. The likelihood is that nothing would happen, but if something did, what would happen to the child and could you just stand by? I probably sound really hard-line here, so sorry.

  55. GM says:

    I’m actually glad to hear you’re thinking it over and weighing the pros and cons. This is one of those areas that you shouldn’t just jump into. Parenting changes you. There’s no reason to believe that parenting their children wouldn’t too. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think that by writing about this and taking your time to process your facts and emotions you guys are making the responsible decision. Just do what you feel is right. This isn’t a black and white issue.

  56. Joan says:

    I’m glad to see this issue addressed. This is still an issue for my son. My mother is the first choice, but if anything happened to her; I still have to have a backup choice. Thanks to everyone who had comments concerning this issue. Please update us on what you decided and why you came to that decision. I have plenty of relatives, but no one I want as guardian for many reasons. Some reasons are their spouses, their lack of money sense, the way they are raising their own children, and the fact that they have made the decision to forgo being parents. I have provided for my son as far as money is concerned.

  57. Chris P. says:

    My husband and I were in the exact same situation many years ago. We went ahead and agreed to take their 3 children if anything happened to them. Well, nothing has happened so far, and the children are all in their 20’s now and doing well. There is every possibility that nothing will happen to your friends either.

  58. Charlotte says:

    Several years ago a young couple in our town died quite unexpctedly. An aunt in another state became guardian to their young children. She said that when they had asked her if she would be willing to take on this responsibility, she said yes and meant it but, at the same time, she never really believed her niece and husband would really die so young and unexpectedly. Her advice to others: BE ABSOLUTELY SURE BEFORE YOU SAY YES!!

  59. Holly says:

    My husband and I are the named ’emergency’ guardians of kids from three different families (three of DH’s siblings). When each sibling had asked us, none knew that we had agreements already in place with the others (we never told anyone since we didn’t want other family members to feel hurt that we were asked and not them, i.e. the grandparents);

    So at the time when we were asked, we had only one child of our own. Now we have three. And when each of the three siblings asked us, they, too, had only one child. Now each family has three kids! That makes us the potential guardians for 9 kids other than our own!

    Trent, what is the chance that you should have to take on the role, really? Just say ‘yes’ and make the couple happy.

    I have not named guardians for mine (ages 15, 13, and 10) because we have a huge family and I know that their three sets of grandparents will all want to be guardians. Plus I don’t want any of them to feel that I favor some grands over others.

  60. jill king says:

    We agreed to do this for a couple different sets of friends. Kept us praying for those parents’ safety and good health! Most of their kids are now grown.

  61. Holly says:

    Correction (above): I had lost count … Two of the families have 3 kids and one of the families now has 5! That makes 12 additional kids of whom we could potentially be named guardians! Yikes!

  62. Holly says:

    Math is weak today…3+3+5=11. 11 kids…

  63. Tiffany says:


    Have you and your wife ever had the opportunity to babysit for a couple of days for your friends? It might give you a better idea of what the two of you could expect if the worse were to happen and you ended up with a houseful kids. If nothing else it would help you get a handle on the logistics!

  64. socalgal says:

    Please say no Trent. You either say yes or no when the request is made, or you look mean-spirited. What are the chances that this will happen? Probably zero. These friends asked you & have financial plans in place, yet you hesitated and told them that you would think about it? Wow. And for the record, I have been asked by two dear friends to be guardian of their children & immediately told them yes. I wanted to ease their minds and let the children know that they will always be safe and welcome. It either comes from the heart or it doesn’t.

  65. Cindi says:

    We said yes in a similar situation but we requested the parents tell other family members, who might have expected to be the guardians, that they had asked us and we accepted. We did not want a bad situation to be even more tense with us having to deliver the news that the family was not going to gain guardianship of the child. If tragedy did happen, we knew we’d still help the child keep the close ties to grandparents through visits (that another area where insurance money would be a help). We also keep a copy of their will at our house so we could respond with their written authority in the case of an emergency.

  66. Lou says:

    You didn’t consider the impact on the children, theirs and yours, of the choice. Your kids would get less parental face time, but depending on their ages, would either get mentored or get to mentor – either is excellent experience. Children from larger families don’t just have a different parent/child experience, they get a different socialization.

    Does this couple currently parent in a way compatible with yours? Would you consider them good guardians for your children? The whys & whynots of those questions also matter.

    And what have you and Sara done about guardianship for your own three?

  67. tall bill says:

    Trent: Turn the situation around; Do you trust them to list them either as a Guardian or backup Guardian one for your three loving & cute kids? While your parents may be able at this time, the kids are young..

    It’s an honor and a blessing in how they asked you & your home is certainly a happy place & could remain so with others added if that happens.

    The probabily is remote, but it does happen. Who else but you in time of that crisis? ?

    Talk to your Elders at Church for guidence. They’ll help to shed light onto the subject. Take Care!!

  68. DivaJean says:

    My sister in law and her husband both had a very difficult in considering accepting the potential guardianship of our four kids. She and her husband have their own 2 sons- but they were terrified of the expense of raising our children should something unforeseeable happen. We sat down and crunched numbers- giving them sketches of our life insurance monies, 401K, savings, potential money from sale of our home, car, belongings, etc and it made the concept more palatable. And my mother and father in law also indicated that they would be helped as needed (my mother and father in law have popped up with money unexpectedly from time to time- they are big believers in gifting while you are alive instead of willing money).

  69. Golfing Girl says:

    If they don’t commute together, and don’t both have dangerous careers, the chances of them needing you are extremely minute. Our guardians for our children probably enjoyed a big sigh of relief when I became a SAHM and we quit riding together to work every day… :)

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