Updated on 09.15.14

Struggling with the Guardianship Question

Trent Hamm

Several months ago, I wrote an article entitled The Guardianship Question, where I discussed at length the challenges that parents face when making the difficult decision about guardianship in their estate planning. It’s a very challenging thing to think about – who can possibly take care of your children if something unexpected were to happen to you?

I wrote that article during a time when my wife and I were really struggling with that issue ourselves. We’d read quite a bit about how to select a good guardian for your children and were moving through the process of choosing such a guardian and I felt the information we had learned would make for an interesting article. I often do that very thing – if I’m working through an issue and researching it for myself, I’ll write about that issue on The Simple Dollar, because if it’s something I’m working through, there are likely many others who are thinking about that very issue.

To put it simply, my wife and I are still struggling with this issue. In my original guardianship article, I noted a big handful of questions that one should consider when selecting a guardian. We used these very questions to attempt to select guardians, but every choice we considered failed miserably in at least one aspect.

Here were our criteria:

Does the potential guardian share your values?

Do you believe the guardian will raise your child in accordance with those values? Is that potential guardian a good person?

Does that potential guardian have a strong family network around them to help with the burden of having unexpected (and likely traumatized) children?

Will that potential guardian teach your children the basics of success in life?

Does that guardian have the financial security to ensure that your child’s needs are met?

Will that guardian have an expected natural lifespan that will allow them to remain as guardian until your child enters adulthood?

Our choices for guardianship really boiled down to four options:

Option A: A couple without children at home in their mid fifties. They strongly share our values and are closely tied to our extended family.
Option B: A couple in their forties with three children at home, all older than our children. They share our values pretty well and have some ties to our extended family, but they live far away from both sets of grandparents.
Option C: A couple in their forties with three children at home, all older than our children. They weakly share our values, but have very close ties to our extended family.
Option D: A couple close to our age that’s unable to have children. They very strongly share our values and probably fill me with the most confidence to raise our children well, but there is virtually no tie at all to our extended family.
Option E: A single female younger than us with values that perfectly match what we want and close ties to family. However, her income level is extremely low and her future and life path would be greatly altered by the burden of children. Likely, Option E will grow in likelihood as time goes by and she figures out where her life is going.

So, each option has some strengths and some weaknesses.

During our discussions, I was a strong advocate for options B and D, while my wife was a strong advocate for options A and C. What does that really mean? My wife and I see different criteria as being the most important in selecting a guardian.

This realization has changed our discussion quite a bit. We know what the strengths and weaknesses of each option are – our question then becomes what criteria is the most important to us. Is it most important that we choose a family that matches our values? Is it most important that we choose a family that has a lot of support with our extended family? Is it most important that we choose a young family that will be able to provide parental support until our children fully leave the nest and find their own lives? How important is it that a family is in strong financial shape?

After a lot of discussion, we tentatively put down Option A as our choice on our will, but we’re still discussing the issue and it’s likely that the choice will change at some point. We pick up this discussion on a regular basis and twist it around, but we usually find ourselves just as far away from a real answer as we were when we began.

If guardianship is an issue that is of concern in your life – and if you’re a parent, it should be – now is the time to start thinking about it. From our experience, I recommend starting with the criteria. Do you want your child’s guardians to be young? Must they have a strong income? Do they need to have close ties to your family? What about their values – do they match what they want for your children?

There is no right answer here. Different people will come to different conclusions to these questions. What matters is that you put thought, care, and love into this question and do what you feel is truly best for your children.

Good luck.

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  1. Lisa says:

    Doesn’t the income issue of the guardian come down to how you choose to handle life insurance and other options? We chose someone who was not as financially secure (still in school, heading toward a fairly low paying profession), but to make up for that increased the amount of life insurance we purchased to help offset the financial impact. But, we also discussed it with her to make sure she was comfortable taking on the challenge of two kids (should it happen).

  2. Sassy says:

    You might also want to consider naming an alternate in your will as well. If something changes and your first choice is not up to the challenge if, god forbid, your children need a guardian, then you will still have input into the choice of guardian. We have changed our choices a couple of times over the years as couples had problems or split or changed their lifestyles. Just a thought.

  3. sarah says:

    On the ties to extended family – are you looking just at existing ties, or what would happen if/when they became guardians of your kids? I would imagine that, barring physical distance, the children would become that strong tie between families and that support would be there.

  4. PF says:

    Like Lisa, I’m wondering why option E is a problem. Surely the kids are going to come with a fairly substantial amount of money aren’t they? With life insurance policies, social security, our estate, etc. our daughter brings about 2.5M to the table. I don’t want her to be a burden to anyone.

  5. Brian says:

    As stated above, finances should not be as important if you have the right amount of life insurance in addition to the value of your other assets like retirement, house, etc. One thing that my wife and I did was split the responsibilities between two people. Her sister will be the guardian of my kids and my brother will be the trustee of the money. We did this for two reasons: (1) this keeps both sides of the family involved even though this would not be a big problem hopefully, and (2) it divides responsibility for two big things, between people equipt for both, and does not throw everything into one persons lap.

  6. frugalcpa says:

    What an interesting conundrum. D seems like the clear answer to me – I side with you. ;)

  7. DivaJean says:

    My partner and I have had similar discussions/debates over the potential guardianship of our 4.

    Right from the start, my sister and her husband were stricken from the list. Their church preaches against families like ours- I certainly don’t want my kids to have to deal with pastors preaching about how their two moms went to hell and how they lived in an evil household.

    Close friends were considered, but eventually ruled out when they had their own children- and we could see in more detail what their belief system was like.

    Ultimately, we decided on my sister in law and her husband. They have twin boys that are 7 now. We discussed this many times with them before committing to it. My sister in law wanted to have full financial disclosure from us before considering agreeing to it- since their household would double if/when my children ever needed their care. She even crunched numbers to make sure it would be possible on the money we have. I can’t say I blame her- it only makes sense to know ahead of time.

  8. CPA Kevin says:

    I agree with Lisa and PF – wouldn’t life insurance on both of you cover any financial shortfall the guardian would come with?

    We are set up to have a separate trustee for our assets should we both die unexpectedly. While we trust who we’ve selected as the guardian, we are making sure our kid(s) are taken care of. Coming into that much money and taking on a child(ren) at a traumatic time would be hard enough, so we’re spreading out the duties.

  9. Adrienne says:

    The important thing about the life insurance money is to talk to the guardian about how you want it used. I’m sure some guardians would assume the money is only for the children. I’ve told my guardian how I want her to use the money and set-up another person to help with the financial aspect.

  10. lindsay says:

    Maybe I missed it in your essay above, Trent,but I didn’t notice that you have *asked* any of your potential choices if they would be willing to become guardians for your children. That is first and foremost in my mind. They must be willing to assume the responsibility,and a couple who is older now, may not be amenableto that say, 10-15 years down the road when they will want to be retired,etc.

  11. Shevy says:

    The Will issue is something we have had on our To Do list since our Dear Child was born (she’s 6 now) and the question of guardianship has been the hangup.

    Various circumstances have changed since she was born and I think that we’ve actually resolved the problem, but now we just have to get back to the lawyer and implement it!

    I think your optimal choice will probably change as time passes but it’s good to do as I say and not as I do. In other words, make the best choice you can for now and be aware that you may have to change it later. Don’t wait until you figure it out perfectly. What if (G-d forbid) something bad happened before you took care of it?

  12. TPol says:

    If the couple of Option A are in mid-fifties, do you think they really are an option at all? I am barely 43 but I lack the energy to deal with kids. I tend to agree with you about Option D but I hope you never need any options and live to see your grand-grandkids.

    There is no guardianship in my culture. Somehow closest relatives take on the duty, usually grandparents or aunts and uncles. Few months ago my closest girlfriend mentioned that she does not see her family fit to raise her child if anything happens to her, she KNEW I would step in. (Remember, guardianship is not in our culture). I was caught off-guard and mumbled something along the lines of her being silly and that she will live to see her grandkids and stuff like that. I am single and never wanted to have kids. I am too selfish to take on additional responsibility and I am not good with kids at all. So, I still wonder how she came up with that…

  13. Golfing Girl says:

    In our situation we chose something similar to option D. We chose this couple close to our age who tried for years unsuccessfully to have children. We chose them over our brothers or parents because they would raise our daughter most like we would. They happily agreed and we have PLENTY of life insurance so that it would not be the slightest financial burden on them. The good news is that they now have two small children somewhat close in age to our daughter so she would now have “siblings.”
    We also know that they would never interfere with our daughter having a close relationship with our families. It simply came down to “who would raise her like we would?”

  14. EngineerMom says:

    I’m one of those people who really likes to know what the contigency plans are for emergencies, so before our son was even born, we had decided who we would like to be guardians, approached that couple.

    The couple happens to be one of my husband’s aunts and her husband. They have a pair of twins, aged 7. My mother-in-law is the oldest of 5 sisters, all of whom live within one hour of each other, so she would definitely have the family support, including the help of our son’s grandparents.

    The aunt and uncle agreed on the condition that we would re-evaluate the choice in ten years, which I think is perfectly reasonable given that in ten years, we will likely be up to our goal of 4 kids and the two twins will be moving out of the house on their way to college, so the aunt and uncle’s lifestyle would change drastically by taking on another set of kids.

    By that point, we will probably be in a permanent home (my husband is in grad school) and connected more strongly with other people in our community, so our choice will probably change. Also, it is highly likely that one of my husband’s numerous cousins or siblings will be married and have kids closer to our kids’ age, and will be a better choice than an aunt and uncle.

  15. Liebrock says:

    I think it all depends on the age of the children in question and their relationships to the people who would potentially serve as their guardians. Are there grandparents in the picture? Your guardian may not live near enough to them to provide grandparent access. I assume that if your children need “guardians” both of you will be deceased. That said, if your children are minor, leave your estate to your children. Their guardians may use the money for the care and upbringing. I wouldn’t worry too much about “lifestyles” and common values. Your children will be traumatized by your untimely death. They’ll need someone most importantly, to care for them not only physically but emotionally. And that’s why I would select as guardian someone to whom your children are close to emotionally. It may NOT be a relative. And also, it’s imperative that you tell your guardian-to-be what your wishes are and give them appropriate copies of the will.

  16. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    I have close relatives that have dealt with the problem like this – they named one person a live-in guardian and put another in charge of the finances, so they have to work together. This creates a natural checks and balances system. The parties know each other but are on different sides of the family. Just thought I would add that as an option as well.

  17. Marguerite says:

    I’m curious how much of the time you spent discussing the situation with the potential guardians. Did they know they were being considered?

  18. smurfett says:

    You didn’t list the cons of Option A.

    Option D sounds like a good choice. Just because they don’t have any ties with your extended family now doesn’t mean they won’t make the effort to forge those ties once you’re gone. If they share your values for family, wouldn’t they do that, esp if they live close by?

    Option E is also a good choice if she’s willing to take care of 2 (and maybe 3 children) suddenly. The guardian DOES NOT have to be the same people who manage your children’s finances.

    If you separate the management of money and guardianship out, you could find different sets of people who can help raise your kids well and another set who can manage their inheritance well.

  19. Kymm says:

    I think E sounds ideal. The others are right, the finances should be taken care via life insurance, trusts etc. What I wanted to add was that the finacial doesn’t have to be all of nothing. You could set some up to go directly to the guardian for the children’s day to day and have someone else set up for long term eg college money. So there can be 2 or more pots of money.
    I also want to echo the fact that you need to make a decision one way or the other. You can always change it/tweak it at a later date, but you need to get something in place, now.

  20. Bhaa says:

    I don’t have kids yet, but my parents set it up with one person getting the kids (someone in the family) and a close family friend (who was good with money) to be in charge of the trust. Thankfully, they never had to use it. They also re-evaluated when we were teenagers who we would go to, etc. But I think the divide and conquer approach works well. Not to be cynical, but people get weird with money… Make sure the person who is in charge of the trust shares your financial values as well.

  21. palm says:

    Both our primary and secondary choices for guardians for our kids are couples who can’t have or don’t want children. It was very important to us to choose people who would be young enough that our kids wouldn’t suffer the loss of their parents and then their guardians a few years later. Then we bought a ton of life insurance because we knew that couples without kids would be stunned by the costs. When we had our second we called both couples again to verify they were still okay with potentially being on the hook for more than one kid. Fortunately they were.

    In your situation I would probably have chosen Option D as well, and would never consider a couple in their 50s, but it’s pretty obvious that people have different priorities.

    After both our son and daughter were born I had nightmares within the week about them being abandoned and alone and ended up updating the will within the next week.

  22. Courtney says:

    My husband and I have this problem as well. His parents have serious chronic illness (his mother is on SSI-Disability) and his sister is legally mentally ill. My dad isn’t interested, and my mom is not well, either – she’s legally disabled, but still works. We don’t have any “couple” friends that we’re close enough to consider it with. That leaves my brother, with whom I share very few values, but who I know would be a good father. The problem is that he is a Special Forces soldier, and his lifestyle isn’t exactly conducive to children. I just don’t see anyone else to whom I would entrust my child!

  23. Nicolas says:

    This is interesting enough to garnish my first post on the simple dollar. I am 21 and to be honest don’t plan on having kids in fact I don’t even really like them as they make me nervous. All that said I have strong beliefs on what people should do with their children because I was on recently and the people and friends I know raised poorly are falling by the wayside fast now. When I read through your options E was the worst by far from a kids perspective. A single parent is bad deal I have divorced parents and both got remarried one late and it was much better with a full family. The younger woman will either be single still or she will meet someone and the kids who aren’t hers fall off in importance no matter what. If you are looking for someone to take your kids the best is a really stable marriage kids are hard enough on biological parents. Look for stability first beyond all else because my friends without it made tons of mistakes. Closeness to extended family is highly overrated in the development of quality children its all about parents being on the same page.

  24. wendyrjr says:

    Hi Trent
    I do hope you take note of the comments in this very serious decision – especially, discussing fully and openly with the proposed parties, planning a review on a regular basis, separating the finances and guardianship issues (this is where term life insurance is so important).
    I liked the sound of option e – but don’t treat this as a vote!!

  25. Mary says:

    I thought A was the best answer! We chose my youngest uncle, grown children, wife about to retire from teaching. Live on family farm next to my Dad. My Dad would be a ton of help with my kids, but I think they would be too much for him alone. We narrowed our choices which all had adult or nearly adult children, then we looked at how their kids turned out and picked the family that had raised kids to the level that we hope to raise our kids. (In my uncle and aunt’s case 3 very successful engineers.) We also have a second choice just for safety’s sake incase the first choice couldn’t take on the responsibility at that time. (Also, enough room for my kids without having to move, and they live debt free for years, so they would definatly be frugal with the insurance and money from sale of our property.)

  26. Berdette says:

    It is so interesting how different people view things so differently. For my husband and I, we wanted to be certain that our daughter would not be second best to someone’s biological children. She is an only child and we worry that suddenly having siblings would be hard on her. We also want to be sure she is very loved. I thought D was the perfect choice and then maybe E. People who have their own children may inadvertantly favor their children over yours–it is just natural. They can always become close to your family when they have a reason to. Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  27. AM says:

    For me, the most important issue was whether they would be truly joyful to take care of my boys. I really didn’t want anyone taking care of them who would feel they were a burden, or regret the necessary changes that would accompany having surprise children. I, along with above commenters, was not too worried about finances as we have planned to be able to provide for the boys if we die.

  28. RS says:

    I chose my sister as my kids’ guardian. In some ways, she’s like the young woman you mention – not in maturity, but in financial resources. She is perfect (well, nothing is perfect when thinking of someone other than me raising my kids), but does not have the money. So, I bought a boatload of life insurance. She will have the money she needs. For me, that solved my problem.

  29. Geezer Dad says:

    I have children who were born in my mid-fifties. I am a more dedicated parent than I was earlier, and finding the energy is not a problem. Even starting now, almost 70, would work for me.

    Don’t discount option A.

  30. reulte says:

    Courtney (#17) Talk to your brother about the situation. Sure the lifestyle isn’t conducive to raising a child, well neither are a lot of lifestyle but people adapt … and if you trust him with your child you’ve already gone through the major hurdle.

  31. queen says:

    Isn’t this something that should be decided before you have children?

  32. leslie says:

    We struggled with this one a little but ultimately chose my sister as guardian. She and I are very, very different in many ways but as we age we get more and more alike. The main hangup was actually money. We have plenty of life insurance but she isn’t the best with money and we were worried that the money wouldn’t be used as well as it could be if she was in charge of it (not because of dishonesty or bad intentions – because of lack of knowledge. This is something she redily admits). So, my sister is guardian and my dad is trustee. My mother-in-law is back up trustee if my dad is unable to take on the responsibility (he is 71 and my MIL is 10 years younger). My sister is fully aware of this and fine with this arrangement.

    My sister-in-law is currently the back up guardian but I am actually dropping the stuff off at the lawyer today to have that changed. In the last year there have been a number of changes in her life, including a diagnosis of manic depression. She is in no position to take two more kids in to her house should something happen. My mother-in-law has offered to be the back-up guardian.

    When I was growing up, my parents will stated that my sister and I would go live with one of my Aunts (I honestly can’t remember which one – I have a lot of them). When I turned 18, my parents updated their wills and made it so that I would be the guardian of my younger sister should anything happen to them.

  33. Bekki says:

    This is something that my husband and I have talked about a bit, but never really managed to reach an end point.

    He is an only child and we both live here in NY near his family. I have a big family in MA.

    My father-in-law is financially well off, but as far as values are concerned, he’s way at the other end of the spectrum.

    My parents are not super well-off financially, but my dad works hard and has always been able to provide. Of course, there would be life insurance as well.

    My parents share the same values, but then there’s the issue that these poor people are only a handful of years away from their 7th child growing up and leaving the house. I think they deserve a break!

    I have 2 young adult brothers – one married, and one in school, but for various reasons, they don’t even make the short list.

    Which leaves my 4 sisters – ages 20 (in college), 17 (in college), 14 and 12. Obviously, none of them are anywhere near ready to take on the burden of chilren.

    Right now, I’m leaning towards giving guardianship to my parents if something happens in the next coule years, but once my sisters grow older and become established, we would switch to one of them.

    It’s an awful thing to think about, but even more awful if there’s no plan in place.

  34. plonkee says:

    My sister is named to take care of my youngest siblings in the unlikely event should anything happen to both of my parents (they are divorced). I’m thinking that the most important thing is to make a choice, even if you think it’s not the best one. It’s better to update later when your mind is changed than for grieving children to be without a named carer.

    I don’t want children, but if it came to it I would gladly take in orphaned relatives if I was the best option for them. I would hope for money to cover some or all of the costs though.

  35. A.M.B.A. says:

    The main consideration is the potential guardian(s) needs to be ASKED if they are willing to take on this type of responsibility. Age and income do not come into play if someone is unwilling to step up to the responsibilities.

    And it does happen. My sister and I were orphaned at ages 11 and 9 (parents killed in a car crash). There was no guardianship set up. We lived for a couple of years with various aunts/uncles (separately), then the oldest sibling, who finally turned 21 , was named (and requested to be) guardian to both of us. Being able to stay with my sister and be united with my other siblings SAVED MY LIFE.

    Naming a guardian is serious business for all involved.

  36. Paula says:

    When my DH and I had this decision to make we were very fortunate that my nephew and his wife met all our criterias. They have three children about the same age as our boys and share the same values.
    I think Option D is the way to go. Now is the time to bring them into the extended family through birthday parties and family gatherings etc. But anyone out there without a decision made should make it priority and not wait. Paula

  37. Neal Frankle says:

    One other important element to consider is that, unlike with assets, when you select a guardian, the court considers it a suggestion. The court has to agree to it and they may not.

    In my case, our guardian lives out of the country and as a result, my attorney said that the court has a preference for the kids to stay in state. In other words, if my other family sues to get the kids (highly unlikely), they might get them – despite our desires to have the kids go somewhere else.

    Has anyone else ever dealt with this issue?

  38. sl says:

    In reading all of the criteria and comments listed,I see nothing about how the children connect with the prospective guardians. I’m sure you’ve considered this, but in my opinion, it should be a first priority. Values and raising the children as you would are extremely important; however, children don’t always connect with others as we do. You may think a couple is perfect for them, but how would the children feel? Would they be comfortable if they actually have to live with them? They may appear to like/love them when they visit, but is there something special there? I’m not suggesting the children should be asked or make the choice. Absolutely not. But their feelings should be considered. Just a thought.

  39. partgypsy says:

    Really our first choice would be their grandparents because they are retired and would love them like no other. But in reality you don’t want the situation where they lose not only their parents but then their guardians to age/disability. So both our first and alternate guardians for our children are member’s of my husband’s family, both whom are younger than us. A would be out for us for that reason. Second get enough life insurance that finances are not a barrier to whom you would naturally choose.
    It’s a tough tough thing. The truth is NO ONE is going to love your children like you will nor will they take care of them exactly in the way you would. Just get enough insurance they are not plunged into poverty and into the hands of someone you trust.

  40. Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet says:

    We chose my husband’s brother as the guardian of our kids. They have two kids who are the same ages as our two kids, and similar income to us. While they do have a very different parenting style than we do, they are also the closest to our kids emotionally and I think it would be the least disruptive to everyone’s lives to go with them.

    So the fact that they are lax we are strict will just have to be secondary. I know they will be well loved and in the end that is all that matters.

  41. Debbie M says:

    This is very interesting. I don’t have kids, but I would think the first criteria would be who loves your kids the most. If kids are loved, they are quite likely to come out okay, no matter what else is going on.

    Values seem less important, especially matching those of the parents. Of course you don’t want the guardians teaching them to be criminals, but kids will figure out their own values regardless of what you do. If anything the values should match those of the kids rather than the parents (assuming any difference). Maybe better would be to pick out people who can handle the kinds of personalities your kids have. They are sympathetic instead of always butting heads, for example.

    Age is sort of important, but as a 46-year-old with a pregnant sister (who’s 10 years younger than me), I don’t think my age would be a problem. Overall health would be more important, although that could change at any time.

    Money situations can change even faster than health.

    I’d think #1 is they love your children, #2 is they wouldn’t mind raising them if necessary, and #3 is they would be able to raise them. All kinds of people are able to raise kids and even if it seems impossible, you tend to figure out ways if you have to. Yes, you can raise six kids at once. Yes, you can raise kids of you’re in a wheelchair. People can do hard things if they want to. Especially as kids get older, the kids can help take care of each other, too.

    It also goes without saying to keep all the kids together, which is great.

    If I had kids I would pay attention to who interacts with them the best and then talk to them about whether they feel they are this awesome because it’s a rare occasion they can easily psych themselves up for or if it’s more because they just love being around your kids whenever possible.

  42. Marcia says:

    Wow, this is a really tough one. We struggled a bit in our decision (which we have yet to put on paper).

    My family is out. My parents are old, not of good health, drink too much, and don’t take care of themselves. I have many siblings, most older, and none of them are interested in taking on a toddler. My brother has two little girls, but I do not agree with his values for the most part.

    That leaves my sister-in-law and her husband (2 kids), my in-laws (divorcing, and too old), and our best friends (also two kids, might be too much for them). Though our values match our best friends more than anything else, and they have the added advantage of being local, we decided to go with family. This would give our son an assured connection to the family (which is currently 3000 miles away). As he gets older, we might reconsider. (Maybe when he’s 10, he’d rather stay on the west coast where it’s familiar than move 3000 miles away).

  43. rachel says:

    I like option E! Sounds like a great person!

  44. SteveJ says:

    @DebbieM – In general I agree with you, but when you’re focused day-to-day on raising your kids “the right way”, you spend a lot of time thinking about values. It’s only natural this be a criteria if you’re considering someone else raising your child. For instance, suppose you decided you’d drink sparingly around your kids. Would you be willing to dump them off with your friend or relative who has been known to have a few too many on the way home? If you’re going to church/mosque/temple every week, you may not be comfortable with the idea of your kids growing up in a secular household. Love is most important certainly, but you really can spend a lot of time working out what you want for your kids. It’s difficult to just let those decisions go and rely on the fact that Uncle John is the best because he takes the kids to the park every week.

    I also think a big part is that no one wants to think about leaving their kids behind, so they’ll come up with any excuse why everyone else would make a lousy guardian, just to avoid going through the motions.

  45. MED says:

    When we prepared our wills last year, we were counseled to make our choices based on “if something happened to you tomorrow”. So, if you don’t think someone is prepared now, don’t choose them.

    Trent, please don’t put off making this choice any longer. Otherwise, the state of Iowa could be making the decision instead of you.

  46. Carmen says:

    I thought option D was the clear winner from those choices too.

    But how about Grandparents? When our eldest was born, we choose a couple (close friends and her Godparents) as guardians, but discussing it with my parents and sister made me realise how uncomfortable they felt about our children potentially being raised outside the family. So we re-thought our plans. Admittedly it is better for our children to have ‘parents’ in their 30’s vs 50’s, but family won for us. My parents are in very good health, more active than us and financially much more secure. I’m not sweating what will happen any more if we’re not around. They will be in loving, secure hands. I would however prefer that they stayed in the area where we live (currently 30 mins from my parents) for stability in schooling and friendships should the unthinkable happen.

    My husband’s sister would be an equally good choice, possibly better. But she lives in San Francisco and has a different life to ours in the UK. It would be a culture shock for the children at an already traumatic time and remove them from all the family they see regularly in the UK. Long term they would probably be the best choice, but in the short term the disruption would be too much. And they will always be there for our children anyway so will keep close contact with them regardless of where in the world they are.

  47. Mama Koala says:

    We have selected our guardians, but need to put it to paper. We purchased a will form online, but let the financial decisions (due to lack of education on trusts, etc) stop us. I’m considering just putting the guardian info to paper so it’s done, then figuring out the money/trust part later. Is this possible?

  48. Gin says:

    don’t choose a couple as guardians, if they divorce, then there will be a fight over your child. Also, choose someone other than the guardian to oversee the money you leave to your child.

  49. Kin says:

    When we had to make this choice (and with my family history it needed to be made as soon as I found out I was pregnant) we didn’t consider the potential guardian’s finances.

    We ended up choosing Hubby’s sister (and discussed it with her), with a close friend of mine as our “2nd choice” if SIL couldn’t do it for some reason. Our children will have approx $800k in assets if anything happens to us, and I made sure our guardians know about this money and that if it happens, financially they won’t have to worry about it.

    But I think you’re right to consider ties to families. With that in mind our wills establish a trust for the children with the assets, administered by my father, and Hubby’s mother, thus ensuring both families HAVE to be involved with the children.

  50. Suzanne says:

    I like option D. I believe those ties would grow especially if you stated in your will and otherwise that this is your wish.

  51. Ash says:

    Another thing to consider: we very clearly stated in our guardianship/will papers who we want to care for our children if we become temporarily unable to care for them ourselves. For example, we get in a car accident and are both seriously injured but not killed. In conversation with our attorney, we decided to spell it out because there are people we DO NOT want caring for our kids, even for a day.

  52. Sharon says:

    If you need to set up a trust for a special needs child into adulthood, be sure to consult a lawyer who specializes in this area. The government is now trying to make those trusts invalid, a make your child spend every penny before Medicaid kicks in. The tip I have heard it to NOT designate the money for the disabled child. If you already have a trust set up, it is time to check this out and make any needed changes.

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