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My husband and I chose a legal guardian for our daughter—here’s how we did it

parents walking holding toddler hands
Evgenij Yulkin/Stocksy

Parenting throws many twists and turns at you, some you may be expecting, but others come out of left field. Unexpectedly, my husband and I discussed this with our financial advisor. He recommended having a Will and Trust in place for our daughter. In the event that we were no longer present to care for our own child, it would be best, he said, if we chose legal guardians to take our place.

This is a dilemma that no parent wants to face, but as usual, reality has a way of making itself known. The decision-making process of this brings on a multitude of feelings. First and foremost, sadness. No parent wants to imagine a world where they aren’t in their child’s life. Secondly, it brought out my protective instincts. I will do anything to protect my child to the best of my ability and naming a guardian would only provide her more safety if anything were ever to happen. Having gone through the process with my husband, here are a few tips that might help other parents who are considering this same decision.

Honesty leads the conversation

The conversation about guardianship with your spouse can be one of the most difficult conversations you will have because choosing a guardian is like choosing a captain for a ship. This captain will have to lead your child through life. Honesty needs to be at the forefront of the discussion. If honesty leads the conversation, it can allow your thoughts to be openly stated and assessed as a couple. Instead of immediately throwing out names of family and friends, we chose to verbally state a list of things we wanted the guardians to have. This can help avoid hurtful statements about friends or family.

Shared values

We decided that we needed to pick a couple that had shared values. For us, that included someone who already has children and loves being parents—which means they prioritized family time and would love, care and support our child as if they were their own. We dismissed the idea of picking a couple that had the same parenting style. No one is ever going to parent exactly as we do—that would be impossible to find. However, we might find guardians that share some similarities. Despite their differences we still respect their approach to parenting.

Your choice shouldn’t be a result of pressure

There is always a potential for hurt feelings among family members when they are not picked as potential guardians and that is important to take into consideration in the conversation with your partner. Most importantly, your choice should not be influenced or pressured by others. You know what is best for your child. While you can love your family or friends it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right fit to raise your child. This chosen person will have to help navigate your child through various challenges.

Once our decision was made we let close family know that we had a Will in place and whom we had selected as guardians. We didn’t get into our decision-making process because that was only for us, but we shared how we felt our chosen couple would be able to steer our daughter’s life in the right direction, even when faced with the unpredictability of life.

Select a good lawyer

My husband and I had never discussed a Will and Trust until it was brought to our attention. Therefore, we had a lot of questions regarding all of the legal jargon in the paperwork. It’s important to select a lawyer that helps you understand the value of placing your child with someone so that the state cannot step in and make the decision for you. Another consideration is who is going to look for your finances to ensure that the appropriate amounts are delivered to your child at a certain age.

Let go of your egos

One of the challenges faced in coming to a decision is letting go of our egos. As parents, it’s easy to assume you’re the best or you do certain things a better way, but I would caution against trying to micromanage beyond the grave. Luckily, my husband and I were able to conclude rather quickly because we had already considered which requirements a guardian should meet.

Discuss your decision with the selected guardian

It is important to ask the person or people you’re considering for the role before putting them in your Will. They also have to decide if this is something that they’re okay with.

Once the couple we chose agreed with our choice, my husband and I felt immense relief. It brought peace of mind to us because we no longer needed to continue thinking about it. We just need to continue having a good, strong relationship with the friends we have chosen, and that is the simplest thing that we can do because they make being lifelong friends very easy.

The dilemma of guardianship is a deeply personal decision that brings about many emotions in parents. Even though it’s hard to discuss, especially as new parents, it is a critical decision in keeping your child protected. Be proactive in planning for the well-being of your children by choosing your guardians wisely and taking the legal steps to make it official.