Not sure who should care for your child in the event that something happens to you? There are lots of factors you'll need to think about as you consider potential candidates. Of course, it’s important to choose your guardian carefully, but also keep in mind that you can change your decision as often as and whenever you’d like. It also doesn't need to be just one person. When designating a guardian for baby, you can create a checks-and-balances system by choosing one person or couple to support your children as their guardian, while designating a different person to manage their financial affairs.
When choosing a guardian, ideally you want to pick someone who’s a trusted family member or friend. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a family member, but what matters is that the person or couple you choose is not only willing to serve as your child’s guardian, but also able to raise your child in the same or similar way that you would.
To help you make the decision, sit down with a pen and paper and list your potential candidates and then answer the following questions about each one of them. If you’re deciding with your partner, answer the questions separately and then compare afterward:
- What kind of relationship does my child have with this person, and vice versa? Do they get along?
- Am I comfortable with this person’s lifestyle and values? Can my children get the same moral and religious upbringing that I would’ve provided?
- Is this person able to care for my child? For example, do they have children of their own? If so, can they handle more children? If they don’t have children, would they be able to raise children?
- Where does the person live? Would my child have to move to live with this person?
- If I have more than one child, can this person take care of all of them, or would my children have to live separately?
- Is the candidate willing to serve as my children’s guardian? The person you’re considering might not be willing to accept the responsibility. Therefore, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time whether this person is willing to take on the task of being a guardian to your children.
- How good is the health of the person? Are they physically and mentally able to accept the responsibility?
- Does the person have time to raise my children? Are they a dual working family, or does one parent stay home? Would they need to place my child in day care? If so, am I comfortable with that?
- What are the candidate’s views on education? Do I want my child to be homeschooled or privately educated?
- Is the candidate financially secure? Although you don’t want money to be the ultimate determining factor in who raises your children, it’s always smart to pick a candidate who’s financially secure enough to provide stability for your children.
Once you decide, you should discuss your decision with that person to see if they’re willing to accept the responsibility, and make sure to give them some time to think about it. Many parents are worried about giving the designated person the assigned powers right away. To avoid this, parents can leave the signed documents with their lawyer with instructions on when to turn it over. If you choose to do this, then make sure you tell the guardian who they'll need to contact. Also, one other option you have is to make the power of attorney effective as of a certain date or event, rather than making it effective once you sign the document.
Even if you’re feeling conflicted about your choice, it’s important to name a guardian now—you can always change the designation later. That’s a better idea than postponing the decision completely, since you never know what could happen.