Paging Jacoba Urist, Financial Expert: Selecting a Guardian
This week’s episode brings to light a topic that I know a lot of parents struggle with – selecting godparents/guardians for your kids. It is a topic that is emotional and stressful on many families and can be the source of heated discussions and debates. I think it is oh so important to face difficult tasks like this as parents for the sake of our kids. It’s not easy to imagine not being around for them but we must make sure we have a plan because as parents it is our responsibility to take care of our children even if the worst happens and we aren’t there to take care of them ourselves. I have asked Jacoba Urist, Esq, MomPrep expert, lawyer & family finance writer to share with you her thoughts on selecting a guardian.
Currently, Jacoba runs an estate planning and family finance consulting practice, specifically for parents with young children. Jacoba is a regular contributor to MSNBC and Today Moms. Her writing about financial and legal issues has also appeared on MSN Money, The Atlantic, and Newsweek/Daily Beast, and she’s been interviewed as a parenting legal expert on The Today Show. Above all, she hopes to inspire every parent to “babyproof their child’s future,” by providing access to the most important legal and financial information for families.
GUEST BLOG – How To Select A Guardian For Your Wee One
There’s no question, choosing the person or the couple who would raise your baby if something ever happened to you and your partner is one of the hardest decisions there is as a new parent. During my last trimester, I agonized over which friend or relative would do the best job if the unthinkable ever happened and my husband and I weren’t able to see our newborn son graduate from high school.
Getting Started: Nobody Is Perfect
I tell all my clients, the first step in this difficult process is accepting the fact that there is no perfect match out there. No matter how hard you look, nobody on earth is ever going to parent exactly like you.
After all, we each have a unique parenting style and a unique set of personal values that we bring to the table. But you can’t let that get in the way of making a decision for your family. In so many cases, I see people search (and search) in vain for the perfect choice, and they never actually get around to writing their will. It helps to set a firm deadline for yourself, so you don’t “overthink” everything and let too much time pass without selecting your guardian.
The Three-Fourths Method
I always recommend a three-fourths approach. Here’s how it works: take a quiet evening with your partner and write down the four core values that you both share as a family.
There certainly are no right or wrong answers, but try to be as specific as possible. For instance, don’t just say “education” or “religion”— abstract concepts that are hard to apply to a child’s daily life. Instead, figure out what you’re both really talking about on a concrete level.
Let’s take “religion.” If you’d like your baby to be raised in a home with a certain faith, would you want them to attend religious services regularly? Celebrate holidays in a specific way? Have a certain kind of spiritual experience or formal education?
The more you can flesh out what’s most important to your family, the easier it will be to think about the people in your lives who share the same kinds of values, and express them in a similar way. Don’t forget, for a lot of us, our parenting style (the philosophies we have about raising our baby) is a core value. So spend a moment thinking about the kinds of parenting issues that are important to you in a practical, day-to-day way.
Finding the Best Choice
Now that you’ve got your list, it’s time to seriously look at the people around you who may be right for the role.
The next step in my three-fourth method: try to find a friend or a relative who matches at least three of your four core values. Keep in mind: you don’t need a long list of candidates to choose from. For many of us, only one or two people will match up with three of our criteria and that’s a great outcome. Most of all, I tell all my clients, do not get discouraged: when it comes to your child’s guardian, picking someone is always better than leaving this decision up to fate (or the court system).
For us, the most important value on our list was an incredibly loving home environment, and so I chose someone who I know, loves me, my husband, and my baby in a very pure, unconditional way. Our guardian isn’t a perfect match by a long shot, but his deep emotional bond with all of us made him the right choice for our family.
(Please stay tuned for more advice from Jacoba Urist, esq. our new MomPrep legal and family finance expert, about how to plan the best possible future for your family.)