For a long time I delayed executing my own estate plan because I got hung up on one thing, but one very important thing, who would take care of my children if something were to happen to both my husband and I. For families with minor children choosing guardians can be the most important and hardest decision to make when working on an estate plan. When thinking about your will, you have to decide who you want to act as personal representative of the estate, who the beneficiaries of the estate will be, and who will be appointed guardian of minor children. That last part can be the hardest, as it is so hard to imagine anyone replacing your role as mom or dad. No one can truly replace you, but you can consider many things when making that difficult choice.
When we first started brainstorming guardians and who we wanted to raise our children if something were to happen to us, we thought of those whom we are closest with and also more importantly, whom our children are closest with. We thought of my parents. Although our children are also close with my husband’s parents, they live out of town and we don’t see them as often as we would like. My parents live less than a ten-minute drive from us, so naturally my kids are vey close with them because we are able to spend a lot of time with them. If something were to happen right now, I would love my parents to be there for the kids. However, it is important to look further out. Would my parents be able to care for the kids until they were old enough to be on their own? With our parents getting older we didn’t know that we could answer yes to that last question. Losing parents would be hard enough on our kids, and we would want to give them as much stability as possible, so we decided for us, our parents may not be a good long- term option. With that in mind we were able to cross both sets of grandparents off our list of possible guardians.
Next, we looked at our siblings, our children’s aunts and uncles. My husband and I each have two siblings, so this gave us four more options to consider. How can you choose between sides of the family? We considered everything from mental health, medical health, relationship history, financial responsibility, location, life- style choices, and again relationship between them and our children. We ultimately ended up choosing the sibling who lives nearby, has children that are close with and close in age to our children, and even lives in the same school district as us, so that our children wouldn’t have to be uprooted from their school community. That sibling doesn’t always make same the parenting choices I would, but ultimately, I know that my children would be taken care of, and would feel loved under their care as the guardian.
What I realized, was part of my delay was from not having what in my mind was the “perfect” choice for a guardian. Because again, how can anyone replace me, as mom? All the uncertainty of the current pandemic definitely gave me the urge to make a decision and get things in order. You never know what is going to happen and having a plan in place will make things easier on everyone. And although this kind of decision definitely warrants taking time to think about, it probably shouldn’t take 10 years like it took me! Luckily, nothing happened to us during that time, but you never know and at some point you just need to make a decision. Documents can always be redrafted at a later time if after further thought you change your mind.