Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How do I choose a guardian for my children?

Deborah Frazier
by Deborah Frazier, NAPFA

There is not a parent of young children who does not agonize over this decision. Outside of you and your spouse, there is never a perfect choice. One parent thinks his sister would be perfect, even if she lives in a commune outside of Reno. The other parent wants her mom and dad to raise the kids without realizing that they will be 80 when the children graduate high school. 

Who will raise your children in case of your death is one of the most important decisions you can make. But, it is not permanent. You may choose your cousin or best friend initially, but have a falling out later on. Updating the guardian choice in your estate plan is important.

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Many young parents do not want to face these tough decisions, so they have no will. If this is true for you, look up “intestate” in your state and you will run to the nearest estate attorney.

You will need to name two people for the care of your children. One to physically raise the child and another to manage the money set aside for the care of the child. This is often referred to as guardian of the person and guardian of the estate or trustee.

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Like all other decisions, think about the unthinkable: you both die leaving your children alone. Who would be best to take them and raise them with values similar to yours? Once you have decided, discuss it with the chosen guardian. There is nothing more disruptive than having your cherished friend die and discover that all five children are moving in immediately.

The person managing the money left for care of the children could be a friend, attorney, bank or other institution. Setting up language in your will that directs how the money can be used is crucial. Even though these decisions are painful, do not delay in facing them.


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Deborah Frazier has been a fee-only financial adviser since 1986. Frazier is a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors (NAPFA), a fee-only professional association and a Dimespring knowledge partner.