Considerations When Appointing a Guardian for Your Child

By Mike Johnson

It’s not nice to think about someone else raising your child in your place, but life can be unpredictable, and it’s always important to plan ahead and prepare for every eventuality. Appointing a guardian for your child can provide you with peace of mind, while also ensuring that your little one is with the right person, just in case the unthinkable occurs.

However, choosing a guardian isn’t a decision to take lightly. There are a lot of different factors to take into consideration, and it’s important to weigh up multiple aspects and choose with care. This guide will cover some of the key criteria to help you pick the right guardian, along with some useful tips to keep in mind.

What Is a Guardian?

A guardian, in the legal sense, is someone that is appointed to look after a child in the case that their parents die. The guardian will have full responsibility for raising and caring for the child until they reach the age of 18, and this is the difference between guardianship and adoption – adoption is permanent, but guardians only have a legal duty of care up to a certain age.

Why Appoint a Guardian?

Even though it may not be a pleasant experience to consider someone else looking after your child, it’s strongly recommended that parents name a legal guardian. This is because, if the parents die and a guardian has not been named, it means that judges and courts will be the ones to decide where the child ends up and who gets guardianship.

This can lead to a lot of unnecessary additional trauma for the child or children to go through, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll end up with the person that the parents would have wanted. They may even have to be placed in foster care temporarily while the courts decide on the most appropriate guardian.

Choosing the Criteria for a Guardian

So, how do you choose the right guardian? Well, you’ll need a lawyer to help with the paperwork and make it all official, or handwrite your own holograph will, but before you get to that stage, you’ll need to consider a few different factors. Here are some key criteria to focus on in order to make the right choice.

Figure in Finances and Family Factors

Arguably the most important factor to focus on at first is the family. Think about your prospective guardians and consider how well they get on with the rest of your family, like your parents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and so on. It’s often helpful to pick a guardian to allow the children to see and interact with family often, so they don’t feel alone or cut off from the people they love.

Of course, finances are also crucial criteria. You have to think about the financial situation of your prospective guardians, taking into account their career, how much money they earn, what level of stability they have in their professional life, and how well they’d be able to financially provide for your children.

Location and Living Situation

It’s also a good idea to think about where your guardians live. Obviously, in most cases, the children will move into the guardian’s home in the event of your passing, so it’s worth considering what their living situation would be like. Is the property big enough to accommodate the children? Would it be a safe and comfortable place for them to grow up?

And it’s not just the home itself, but also the surrounding environment that you need to take into account. Think about the safety of the local neighborhood, for example, or the standards of local schools. A child’s living environment can have a huge impact on their academic success and social development, so this is a really significant factor.

Religious & Moral Beliefs

You might have certain specific religious beliefs or moral concepts that you hope to teach and share with your children. If so, you may want to ensure that any guardian you choose shares those same beliefs and views of the world and will raise your children with the same principles that you would.

Of course, it may not be possible to find a guardian with the exact same beliefs as you on every subject, but if you can find someone with at least similar views on things, then that’s a good start. A family with a strong Christian background, for example, may want to ensure that any guardian they choose is also a Christian.

Take Age and Health into Account

Many people immediately think of their own parents as the ideal guardians for their children, but you need to think carefully about the age and health status of any guardian you choose, and your own parents may not have the same youthful energy they once had to run around after your child or keep up with their needs and demands.

Similarly, it’s important to communicate with any prospective guardian with serious health issues, like a chronic illness or disability, so that you can find out whether or not they’d be able to look after your children without jeopardizing their own health.

Elderly Parents Are Not the Ideal Choice

Unfortunately, as explained above, elderly parents rarely make the best choice as legal guardians. Their health could deteriorate as they become older, making it far more difficult for them to meet your child’s needs. This is why it’s usually better to look for someone around your age or younger when designating a guardian.

Close Family Friends Can Be a Great Option

It’s tempting to focus purely on family members when picking a guardian, but you should consider looking beyond the family circle to good friends. Your friends are more likely to be around the same age as you and probably live nearby, too, so there wouldn’t be as much upheaval for your child to move in with them.


Clearly, picking a guardian is an important part of being a responsible parent, and it could save your child from a lot of stress and fear, so it’s definitely worth doing. Keep these factors in mind and consult with an attorney to designate your child’s possible legal guardian and make the right choice.

Mike Johnson is a freelance writer and human rights activist and enthusiast. Through his extensive research and commitment to the field of law, Mike has established himself as a well-decorated writer in this field. Mike currently settles in Las Vegas working with Drizin Law firm and loves starting his day with a shot of espresso and cycling through his neighborhood.

About Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE

BA, DTM, CCFE, Certified child development specialist and master of non-punitive parenting and education practices. Keynote speaker and best-selling author of "Discipline Without Distress", "Parenting With Patience", "Attachment Parenting Tips Raising Toddlers to Teens", and "Unschooling To University."
This entry was posted in Babies 0-1, General Parenting, Preschoolers 3-5, School-Aged 6-12, Toddlers 1-2 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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