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Who should I name as guardian of my children in case my spouse and I should die at the same time?

This is an extremely important question. After all, what can be more important than choosing a surrogate parent for your minor children? This process takes careful consideration and may be emotionally difficult, so you'll want to take your time. The best guardian may not be the obvious choice.

You generally name a guardian in your will. Of course, spouses typically name each other as guardian first and then name an alternate guardian or guardians in case the spouse cannot serve for any reason, including death. Some parents nominate one guardian or guardians to care for the children and a different guardian to care for the children's assets and finances. All of this is perfectly permissible. The court will have final approval but generally gives your selection the highest regard.

Who is the right guardian for your children? It's customary for people to name parents, siblings, or best friends. You should select a responsible person with good character who shares your values and has the time and willingness to take on the job. When choosing a guardian, some of the things you may want to consider are:

  • Who loves and cares about your children?
  • Who do your children love and respect?
  • Who do you trust?
  • Who is financially and emotionally able to take on the responsibility?
  • Who is willing to take on the responsibility?

Be sure to talk with any prospective guardian before you nominate that person. Impress upon him or her the gravity of your request. Discuss your wishes regarding how you want your children to be raised (e.g., you want them to have a religious upbringing, or you want them to go to college) and what financial resources will be available (e.g., you have life insurance). Give the potential guardian plenty of time to think over your request carefully.