How to choose the right guardians for your children (and pets)
Guardianship is often a primary, and critical, reason to write a will - guardianship of children clearly being the main driver for parents. Additionally, 57% of American households have pets, and many pet owners want to make plans to make sure Fluffy and Fifi don't end up a the pound.
But, honestly, if you’re going to get stuck anywhere in the process, guardianship is often the place. Let's not do that.
Tips to get started
- You can always change your will if you change your mind. But, getting a will in place is the best way to safeguard your family now. Otherwise, you’ll leave it up to the courts to decide what happens to your kids.
- You can state additional provisions—some informal, others legally binding—that outline specific requests for the care of your children, such as schools or bedtimes.
- If a couple is appointed as guardians, you should specify who should be the guardian if they divorce.
- You should specify a temporary guardian, such as a friend or neighbor, if it may take your permanent guardians a while to arrive and take custody of your children.
If you divorce, things get more complicated but still work pretty much the same. Each of you should have a will that lists assets, life insurance and other benefits that go to the children. Generally, unless there is some complicating circumstance, guardianship of the children will go to the surviving parent.
Guardianship of pets
You need to make provisions for Fifi and Fido too. You cannot leave pets money, as they are not people. However you can name a person as your pet’s guardian and leave him or her money specifically to help with the costs of caring for it.
Guardianship of adults
You may currently have guardianship of another adult who is unable to make legal and other decisions on their own. For example, you may caring for an aging parent, a spouse with a serious medical issue, or an adult living with disabilities.