The last thing anyone ever thinks of is “What would happen to my child, if I were to die tomorrow”. Having a child, we are constantly concerned about their health, if they are comfortable, if they are hungry and if they are happy. But what about, who would take care of my child if I were to become suddenly ill, incapacitated or die? Who would feed them, clothe them, care for them, and love them unconditionally? Who can I trust as legal guardian?
Let’s talk about some key things to consider when choosing a guardian, in the event of incapacity or death:
Who shares the same beliefs and values as I do?
Choosing a guardian is a hard decision. Do you want someone who has a similar parenting style and values education? Does this person treat others kindly and are they patient? Do they have integrity and are trustworthy? You may want to consider choosing someone who shares the same spiritual and/or religious beliefs as you.
Close family friends are a great choice
When you choose someone to be the guardian, you’re not just selecting that person or couple, you are choosing their entire family. Ensuring that their family life is similar like yours and they have a safe and stable home provides comfort in knowing that your child is not forgotten and won’t be pushed to the side.
Grandparents may not be the best choice
Your parents raised you, so you may think this is the best choice. However, as your parents get older, one must consider, would they be able to keep-up with a child who is on the go and physically demanding? Are your parents in good health? Your parents might not be up to the trials and tribulations of the teen years. Your parents might also not be around when your child is entering or in high school.
Don’t automatically choose a couple
We almost always assume, two is better than one. But that is not always necessarily true. Many parents gravitate towards a couple because they can seem more stable. However, divorce can happen to even the best of couples.
Does your guardian live in town or out of town? Are they close to your child’s school, or would they be willing to drive every day? This may not be a factor for a baby or an infant, but for a young child, it might not be wise to up-root their surroundings. Try and keep their living situation as normal and similar as it is now. You may also want to consider how far away your guardian lives from other members of the family. If your child feels comfortable with their grandparents, or aunts and uncles or cousins, having family members close, will help them to heal if they are faced with a painful and traumatic ordeal.
Stable job and Financial Situation
Making sure that the guardian you do choose, is employed, and can financially support another child in the home. The cost of clothing, food, childcare, medical expenses, sports, etc. is costly and should be made a priority. The person you do choose, is most likely not a beneficiary on any life insurance policies of yours. You want to know that they will be able to manage all responsibilities for your child and you can trust them to handle the monies appropriately.
Nothing is set in stone
If you have chosen someone and you have a falling out, or lose contact, or they pass away, you can go back to your lawyer’s office and change this. You need to feel comfortable with your choice.
Before you finalize your decision and head over to your lawyer’s office, make sure you ask the person you have chosen if they would be willing to be your child’s guardian. The appointment of the guardian is not effective without their consent. This is a big responsibility. Sit down and have a conversation with them about how you would want your child raised and what your expectations are. Let them ask questions and be open about the conversation. Don’t be hurt if they refuse, it is a massive undertaking to raise someone’s child. Let them make this decision without feeling obligated to do so. Sometimes feeling obligated, can lead to resentment.
Don’t let the Court make this decision
If you suddenly die without a Will and have a child, the Ontario Court will then have the discretion to appoint a legal guardian based on the child’s best interests. While the thought of appointing someone else to care for your child may be daunting, if you let the Court make this decision for you, they won’t have any particulars to whom you wanted or did not want. This could lead to conflict and additional stress during a difficult time for everyone and most importantly for your child.
Sometimes sitting down and making a list of questions and going through this with your partner or a friend, will help shed some clarity on who you want as your child’s guardian. This isn’t an easy choice, but one that should be made sooner rather than later. Sometimes we put things off until a later date and it can be too late but having peace of mind when it comes to choosing your child’s guardian, and having this drawn up in a Will, can ensure your loved ones are taken care of, long after you are gone.