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Things to keep in mind when choosing a guardian for your children

Are you someone who shies away from discussions regarding your own mortality? If so, it's okay because you are definitely not the only one in Arizona who dreads such topics. As a parent, however, you've likely wondered who would be there to take care of your children if something were to happen to you and your spouse. If you're a widow or widower, the question might be of paramount importance to you.

It would be nice if you could simply ask your best friend to step up to the plate if a need arises, but that's not typically how it works. In fact, there are many legal issues involved with naming a guardian for your children and careful selection and proper execution of a plan may mean the difference between protecting your children's best interests and leaving them in an uncertain situation that may be quite stressful.

Consider these factors when thinking about guardianship

Do you have more than one sibling? Is each of them equipped, capable and willing to care for your children if you are incapacitated or deceased? What about your closest friends or your parents? The following list of tips may be useful as you ponder this issue and think ahead to what your children might need if you are no longer able to be there for them:

  • A guardian does not have to be a member of your extended family. If your parents are well advanced in age or a sibling is headed for divorce, you might want to consider options outside the family when choosing someone to care for your children in the event of your death.
  • If your spouse is still living, it's always best to make sure you both share your feelings and opinions before making any formal decisions about guardians. It might be difficult to admit that your spouse might have a better suggestion than you; however, if you keep in mind what's most important, you'll likely see the benefit of compromise.
  • Never name someone as a guardian in writing without asking his or her permission first.
  • Do not ask permission then settle for a verbal agreement. Always execute a solid plan and go through the proper legal channels to seal the deal.
  • Naming a guardian is often part of the estate planning process as a whole. Such documents may be changed and updated as necessary. In fact, it's always a good idea to periodically review your plan, including guardians you have named for your children, and seek support where needed to modify existing documents so all information remains current and conducive to your needs and goals.

You might be worried about hurting people's feelings, such as if you choose one sister over another to be a guardian for your children. You might want to plan your response ahead of time. Regardless, the bottom line is that the decision belongs to you and your spouse and you don't really owe anyone an explanation.

You may, however, run into some legal challenges for one reason or another along the way and it's good to know there's support available. Many Arizona parents seek assistance from estate planning attorneys to help them iron out the wrinkles in their plans and also to help with any updates or changes as needed.

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