No one wants to think about his or her own mortality, and no one especially wants to think about someone else raising his or her children.  However, once you have children, the right thing to do is sit down and decide whom you want to raise your child or children if you pass away.

There is no perfect choice.  Everyone you think of as a possibility will have a flaw or two; it is inevitable.  Why will this happen? Because, ultimately, you are the best person to raise your child.  The reality is that the right thing to do is to choose the best person (and, no, he or she will not be perfect) to raise your child if something happens to you.

If you do not know where to start in determining who to name as a legal guardian for your child, here are a few steps you can follow.

Determine the Basic Criteria you feel the Guardian Must Have

Make a list of the criteria or values you feel are essential.  These can include moral values, personal attributes, and religious values.  Think about what you want for your child.  What is most important: education, financial stability, freedom to follow his or her passions, religious beliefs, or something else?  Now make a list of potential candidates who you feel best epitomize these criteria or values.

Narrow Down the List

Next, you need to go through the list of candidates to determine which individual, or individuals, are the best choice.  As you evaluate each individual, you might want to consider the following categories.

  • Beliefs/Personality
    • Religious beliefs
    • Personality traits such as patient, kind, warm, fun-loving
    • Political views
    • Positions regarding education and economics
  • Parenting Skills or Style
    • Parenting style with his or her own children
    • Feasibility of adding another child to the family
    • Discipline style
  • Physical and Emotional Health
    • Any physical or emotional health issues
    • Age of the individual
    • Lifestyle choices
  • Practical
    • Place of residence. Will your child change school districts, be close to relatives or friends, and feel comfortable in the home?
    • Is he or she in a stable relationship?  What is his or her history in this area?
    • How well does the individual know your child, and how well does your child know this individual?
    • Would this individual be open to being named as your child’s guardian?

Remember, there is not one individual that will meet all of your criteria.  He or she is not you.  This is a matter of choosing the best individual, the one that your instincts tell you is the best person to raise your children if it becomes necessary.  Once you have narrowed your list down to that one person, it is time to move on to the next step.

Talk with your Choice of Guardian

Sit down privately with the individual you have chosen.  Tell him or her what you have decided, and why you have made this choice.  Depending on how the person responds, you can go into the specifics as to why you choose them, or you can give them time to think it over.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the process, write down what you would like them to do for your child, how you would like your child to be raised and the values you want to be instilled.  Once the individual has agreed to be named the legal guardian, it is time to move on the next step.

Write up your Will

The final step is writing up your will, including the name of the legal guardian you have chosen.  Include all relevant contact information.  You may decide to name an alternate guardian in case the individual you’ve chosen isn’t able to take on the role.

Remember, as a parent, you must do everything possible to ensure your child’s well-being.  This responsibility continues even if you pass away.  So don’t put it off, but take the time today to choose a legal guardian for your child.