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Annie Babbitt, guest contributor

In the first part of this essay, we discussed how to create and legalize a will. Now let’s move on to the harder task of choosing a guardian and caring for your child in case of unexpected death of you and/or your spouse.

 

Choosing Guardianship

Do not assume that your spouse will automatically gain guardianship over your children when you pass away. If there is no guardian named then anyone can put his or her name forward to be considered. While your spouse has a very high chance of being chosen, it is not a guarantee. State your spouse specifically as guardian, then choose one or two alternatives in case your spouse is unable or unwilling to care for the children, or passes the same time as you.

If you have strong feelings against your children’s other parent having guardianship, be sure to state exactly why in your will, with examples and reasons. The judge will consider all information available before making a final decision.

Thinking about someone else having to raise your children can be very tough and emotional. However, it does need to be given a lot of thought before a decision can be made. Here are some questions to consider when choosing a guardian for your children.

  • Is there someone your children are already close to and comfortable with?
  • Who is financially, physically, and emotionally responsible and stable enough to care for your children?
  • Will this person have the time and energy to give your children the care they need?
  • Does this person have children already, and would your children fit in or get lost in the shuffle?
  • Would your children have to move far away, and would that cause more problems?
  • Does this person have the same parenting style, values, and religious and educational beliefs that you do?
  • Should your children be kept together, or would it be better to name a separate guardian for each child? Separate guardians may be good for children who are far apart in age, for children who have special needs, or if they have special attachments to different people.
  • Should you name one guardian until your child is a certain age, then a different guardian after that? A switch like this can be difficult on a child though, so keep that in mind when considering this option.

 

Your Child

Having one or both parents pass away will be very hard on your child, and the more they know the better they will be able to handle it. If the death is known to be coming, say from a sickness, talk your child through each stage and explain in terms they understand what is going on. If it is sudden, make sure the person caring for your child will give them concrete answers, and be able to answer questions as the child ages and is able to understand more.

Make sure children know who will take care of them in case both parents are gone. Consider writing a letter for your children to have in case something happens, like this blog mom did. Tell them reasons you love them, reassure them, let them know they will be taken care of, give advice, and comfort them.

 

Final Details

Once your will is finalized place it in a safe spot, like a locked filing cabinet, and tell your executor and a couple other trusted friends and family members where it is located. Some banks have very strict rules about who can access safety deposit boxes, so those may cause more hassle than they’re worth if your spouse or executer cannot access your will.

Make sure someone has official permission to pick up your children from school or daycare in case something happens to you and your spouse, and consider naming someone as temporary guardian to care for your children until a judge has named the official guardian.

Once you have your will put together it is a good idea to have it looked over by a professional. This makes sure you have everything you need to make it official, that you have not missed anything, and gives you a chance to ask any questions you may have. Some law firms will offer a 30 minute consulting session, and while finding a lawyer in your area may sound intimidating, it is as simple as searching online for “Ottawa law firm,” or something similar, then making a phone call for what services they offer.

The peace of mind you gain from having a will in place, and a professional reassuring you all will be well for your children if you and/or your spouse pass away, is well worth the money and time it costs.

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Annie Babbitt writes about her interest in current events, political science and philosophy. Annie loves helping promote change and being an advocate for those in need.