Families have a number of factors to consider when naming an alternate or substitute caretaker for their children. Since each family is different, there is no absolute right or wrong way to determine guardians. However, before nominating a guardian, families should consider several important issues before making a final decision. These factors are not all-inclusive. In fact, you and another parent may have other things to consider. Because of this, discussing this matter before executing an estate plan can result in better results.
Is the proposed caretaker willing?
If something happens to a minor’s parents, the courts will appoint a substitute caretaker or guardian. In order for courts to appoint a substitute caretaker, the proposed guardians must submit an application. If a proposed guardian is unwilling to act as caretaker, they do not need to submit an application. This means probate courts will not consider them for the guardianship process. Before naming a guardian, parents should check with proposed guardians to see if they are willing to act as a guardian until the child or children reaches the age of eighteen or graduate high school, whichever is later.
What sort of home do you want your child to live in?
If something were to happen to us, we likely want to make sure our children are safe and secure. We also may want them to be in the most comfortable environment possible. For example, if your child has no siblings, placing him in a home where he must share a room may not be the first choice. However, if your child does not appear to mind company, it may not be the most important factor for you to consider.
What sort of values do they hold?
A family’s values may not stop and start with religion or faith. Values can include what families place importance on when strengthening family unity. Does the friend or relative go on vacations? Or do they stay and home and build strong bonds with their pets? Values can also include what sort of family dynamic exists. For example, existing family members may be individualistic. This may be a culture shock for a child used to a tight-knit family circle. Families should consider all values imaginable when debating a substitute caretaker.
How do they use discipline?
If you ask one hundred parents, you may receive one hundred unique answers when it comes to using discipline on children. In fact, you may disagree with your spouse on this issue. When considering guardians for your children, the use of discipline plays a significant role. If you do not believe in spanking or other forms of corporal punishment, you may not desire to place your children with someone who does. If the issue of discipline weighs heavily for you, discussing it with alternate guardians can help bring about understanding and peace of mind for everyone.
Financial affairs of the Caretaker.
With proper planning, parents can safeguard their children from financial hardships if they pass away prematurely. However, considering the standard of living is only one issue when considering a proposed guardian’s financial affairs. Often, the importance lies in what is taught, not just what is given.
Parents should consider how proposed guardians plan to teach their children about financial affairs. This does not include whether a family has money so much as how it spends (and doesn’t spend) money. The importance of stressing prudent money handling increases when younger adults coming into large sums of money. Proper financial education and positive habits can help ensure that what is passed on lasts as long as possible.
Just about every family values education. However, not everyone values the same type of education. For example, some families value a great school district over parochial or private education. Likewise, other families believe that education’s effectiveness increases when it includes a religious aspect. Opinions on education don’t just end with the public vs. private debate. The types of secondary education and job training may play different roles in different families. Because of this, families should consider whether a guardian’s educational tastes are similar to what they want their child to experience.
Age of the Caretaker
When choosing alternate guardians, age may play the role of the elephant in the room. Some people are too polite to consider it. However, it certainly is a factor that families should consider. This is particularly true when dealing with young children. If your proposed guardian is on the young side, for instance, such as a sibling of the minor child, you may want to ensure that he or she is mature enough to make the decisions needed. On the other hand, if you are considering grandparents serving as the minor’s guardians, you may wish to think about their age when the child is near the age of eighteen.
While age may not always be a disqualifying factor, it can complicate matters for families down the road. Because of this, parents may wish to put together proposed plans that take these issues into consideration.