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Your Health
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Tips for the Life-Planning Decision of Selecting a Guardian for Your Children

It's one of the hardest issues to face. What will happen to your children if you and your partner die unexpectedly? Many parents stress over that question. No one seems to be the perfect guardian. What should you consider when evaluating possible candidates?

Consider five tips to help with this life planning dilemma.

» 1. Make a list. Start by writing down all your possible guardian choices. Think beyond just immediate family members. Friends, extended family and close acquaintances from your place of worship are all good choices.

» 2. Don't focus on their material needs. Having a good life insurance policy can ensure your children are taken care of financially. Don't stress about how much money your potential guardian makes or how big their house is. If you are concerned about the financial management of the money that will be left to your children, you can leave explicit details about this in your will or trust. Appointing a professional fiduciary to be the trustee of your estate is often a good choice because it ensures that the money will be handled appropriately and last throughout the kids' childhood and even into adulthood.

» 3. Think about core values. What values do you strive to instill in your children? You'll want to think about how the potential guardian's values line up with yours. These might include religious beliefs, moral values, social priorities, educational values and their basic child rearing philosophy.

» 4. Be practical. Are you being practical and realistic in your choice? Grandparents may have endless love for their grandchildren, but do they have the stamina to raise teenagers? If they have other children, how do your children get along with them? Do the potential guardians have the emotional well-being to deal with the addition to their family? How close does the guardian live to other family members that are important to your children? Even though they may not be the guardian, you'll probably want grandparents and other family members to be close to your children.

» 5. Communicate your wishes. Talk to all parties involved. Make sure your chosen guardian is in agreement. Let your children know who you have selected. Tell other important people, like grandparents, who you have chosen and why. Write down your reasons for your decision. In the event someone challenges the guardianship, a judge is unlikely to overturn it if your wishes and reasons are clearly stated.

 — André Le Comte represents Santa Barbara Estate Services.

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