If you’re a parent of minor children, you shouldn’t delay in naming a guardian for your youngsters. Knowing that they will be well cared for in the event of your death would be a great comfort to you.

But maybe you’ve hesitated to create your will and execute the documents choosing a guardian because you just didn’t know who to select. Your head and your heart could be telling you two different things. But it’s crucial that you do it. If you don’t, the court will choose who will raise your children, and the court could select someone who does not have the children’s best interests at heart.

So, what criteria should you use to decide on a guardian for your children?

The first thing you’ll want, obviously, is someone who will love them. But that person also needs to be responsible in all aspects and willing to accept the task. (It’s wise to choose an alternate, too, in case circumstances change and your choice no longer is able to act as the guardian.)

After that, think about the following:

  • Does the prospective guardian share your values? Do they feel the same way about things that might be important to you, such as religion, a college education and discipline?
  • Is it vital that your children are raised in Illinois? The best candidate might be your sister in Oregon, and you worry about the kids having to move. Children often are resilient to change.
  • The stability of your choice. Does the person have a good job and a house, or do they change jobs and move a lot?
  • A two-parent household isn’t guaranteed. You could choose a couple, but remember marital status can change, so choose the guardian based on the one person you want to raise your child – not the pair.
  • Consider the age and health of prospective guardians. You might want to choose your parents, but they might be older grandparents who wouldn’t be able to chase after younger kids.
  • Having two people involved is possible. One person might be a great parental influence but not great with money. A second person could manage the life insurance proceeds and other assets you leave behind.

A attorney experienced in estate planning can help make sure a guardian for your children is locked in legally. It’s something that should be done without delay if you haven’t already taken care of the issue.