In Estate Planning, choosing a guardian for minor children is often one of the most difficult questions to answer. If you were to die, who would be responsible for your minor child or children?
The answer involves multiple considerations. Not only will you have to decide on a Guardian (the person the children would live with and make decisions for them), you will also have to select someone to be a Conservator (the person to manage the Estate and finances for the children). The Guardian and Conservator can be the same person, but you can also split the responsibility and name a different person to handle each role.
Age- Age is an important consideration of both the person you are selecting as a Guardian and you child. Your selection of a Guardian might be a different individual, depending on the age of your child. In Michigan, the age of majority is 18 years old. If your child is currently 5 years old or under, this means that the Guardian’s responsibility will last for the next 13-18 years (depending on the child’s exact age). You will need to choose a Guardian that will be capable of raising your child for this amount of time. However, a child that is 16 years or older would only need a Guardian for a few months-2 years (depending on the child’s exact age).
Location- A Guardian is the person your child would live with. In choosing a Guardian, you should consider all the changes your child might go through in addition to losing his or her parents, such as moving houses and a familiar neighborhood, changing schools, leaving friends, or possibly even leaving the state.
Financial Ability- Today, the cost of raising and educating a child is hundreds of thousands of dollars. (and that figure is only for 1 child!). If you have multiple children, you should consider the financial responsibility that will be placed on that Guardian. Also, keep in mind the number of children the Guardian already has. Your selection of a Guardian should be someone that has the financial stability and resources to raise your children.
Lifestyle and Values- A Guardian will be the person responsible for making lifestyle choices for your child that will include decisions in areas such as education, religion, and medical. If you want your child raised with particular values and beliefs, you should choose a Guardian who shares a similar lifestyle and philosophy to you and who will ensure your wishes are carried out.