Choosing a Guardian for Your Children
You've taken the big step. You're preparing your will.  Now, one of the biggest decisions you and your spouse will have to make concerns the guardianship of your children.

Who Will Take Care of My Children?
When it comes to your children’s welfare, when you assign a guardian in your will, you will be designating a person or persons to fulfill two different responsibilities. One entails taking care of your children; the other involves taking care of your assets on your children’s behalf. It’s not unusual to choose one person to take care of the children, and another to watch over your assets on behalf of your children.

Here are some things to weigh when choosing a guardian.

Trust and values – Do you and your children trust the prospective guardian? Does the person demonstrate genuine concern for your children’s welfare? Do you share core beliefs and values?

Age and strength – Is she physically up to raising children? How old will she be when your kids reach the age of majority?

Other commitments – Does she have the time? Would she be willing to adjust her work life substantially?

Other kids – Does she have kids? How would their ages affect family life? (There are advantages and disadvantages to all of the kids in a household being at the same stage.)

Other family members – Would your kids’ other family members (grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc.) be able to accept your choice and/or participate in raising the children?

Financial implications – Will your estate contribute enough money to provide for the children? If not, can your prospective guardian afford to bring them up? Consider, in particular, the cost of higher education.

Geographic location – Would your kids have to move (across the country or to a new school)?

Return to: Why You Need a Will

Patti Paniccia is a lawyer and a former CNN correspondent. She teaches “Gender and the Law” at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, Calif., and is the author of Work Smarts for Women: The Essential Sex Discrimination Survival Guide, which can be purchased at a discounted rate on her Web site,