Not seeing eye to eye with your spouse or partner in choosing your children’s guardian must be one of the most common concerns I pick up whenever you guys consult on guardianship. Without a doubt, nominating the right person to care for your kids is such an important (read: MAJOR!) decision. It’s really one of those things parents just have to carefully weigh up and mull over, and the pressure of making the best decision would, more often than not, lead to no decision at all!!
As I would always tell clients having the same experience, the fact that you and your partner are taking what seems like forever to come up with a uniform decision just shows how much you want the best for your kids and their future.
Not agreeing could simply just mean not wanting to mess up, so there’s no need to feel frustrated and discouraged about anything!
But of course, while the struggle is acknowledged, there are ways that you and your partner can make the process a little less complicated and wearing. Here are a few things you may want to take note of in the course of nominating a guardian!
Restart by making a list of top considerations and qualities in choosing a guardian.
Some parents start straight with a list of persons who they think can potentially be their children’s guardians. And that’s totally fine! It’s worked for some, and it admittedly does seem to make the decision-making process faster and simpler. The reality is, though, some get stuck precisely because they start off with a list of names rather than a list of qualities they value in a prospective guardian.
Try agreeing with your partner first what qualities you think are most important. Do you prefer that the guardian be a parent herself/himself? Are shared religion and values something you regard highly? What about location/proximity to your home? Make a checklist of top attributes, rank them, and trust me—it’ll all get easier to include and exclude names from there!
Keep in mind that you can choose someone outside either family.
Another reason why parents get stuck is because they think they’re limited to family. While, understandably, most parents nominate blood relatives from either side, this is most certainly not a requirement. You can choose a common friend, a trusted neighbor, or basically anyone—family or not!—to take on the guardianship job.
You need not restrict yourselves and get bogged down in the process. Again, it’s all just a matter of weighing considerations and seeing who’s most able, ready, and qualified to parent your kids.
Consider nominating more than one guardian.
It really is quite a challenge to pick one primary guardian to handle it all—parenting, finances, among many other guardianship tasks there possibly are. Solution? Name more! For instance, you can name another person as a “guardian” of your assets, who can then be in charge of managing the funds for the care of your children. (For those who have been following the blog—yup, this is a trust agreement right here!)
Essentially, you can use estate planning to divide the different guardianship tasks, which can help make the nomination process so much easier (assuming the hiccup is coming from the concern that one person may not be able to attend to it all). Ah, the powers of an estate plan!
Another thing—you also don’t need to narrow down your list and settle on just one person to care for your kids. If you and your partner have a few names in mind but are having trouble agreeing on just one, you may designate the others as your second choice, third choice, and so on. Having back-ups is never not a good idea!
You can engage the services of an expert to help you out!
Remember what I said a while back about that pang of heartache from having to imagine not being able to care for our kids ourselves? I totally, wholeheartedly, honestly get that. The uneasiness may be what’s making things more difficult, and getting professional help can most definitely facilitate the decision-making process.
A good estate planning lawyer will not only be able to effectively guide you as you build the perfect estate plan that accommodates your needs, circumstances, and preferences, particularly with respect to guardianship and financial decisions, but she will also be one who cares, listens, and will thus make the process a whole lot easier to bear and get through.
You can also, always, change your mind.
Maybe it’s taking forever for you to choose because you feel you’re supposed to make an irreversible decision? Don’t worry about it. Guardianship decisions are NOT unalterable; you can always change your mind later on. And changing your plan is fast, easy, and will certainly not cost you much!
What I usually advise clients is this: After weighing your options, pick someone and then see first how you feel about it. If, after some time, you feel uneasy about your decision, or perhaps a supervening event has made your initial choice no longer the best choice for a guardian, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. We’ll work together, as we have before, to arrive at a decision you and your spouse/partner will be at ease with!
I think we’ve had the basics covered! If you have any more questions, or if you and your spouse are looking to have an estate planning lawyer on your team, I would be more than happy to join forces with you!
Chat with you guys again on the next blog!