This is a guest post by Jacoba Urist.
All of us want to be great parents. From the minute we wake up to the last kiss goodnight, we do millions of things for our kids every day, and it's nearly impossible to imagine anyone else in our place. But without a doubt, the happiest parent is the prepared parent — no matter how painful it may be to picture someone else raising our child.
So, how on earth do you pick the person to stand in you shoes if something were to happen to both you and your partner?
1. Don't Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good
Voltaire might as well have coined this about choosing a guardian. So many of the couples I interviewed said they hadn't written a will yet because none of the people on their list were just right.
Of course, no parent is perfect, and no one in the world is going to mother your child exactly the same way you do. The first step in choosing the best guardian is actually lowering your expectations. Accept the fact that you are never going to find the absolute perfect person for the job. After all, nobody is you!
2. Set a Deadline
Scary fact: half of Americans don't have a will. And most of the parents I spoke to without one said, well… it just kind of fell by the wayside.
In truth, you could go back and forth about this decision for months. (Some couples say they've been debating candidates for years!) So sit down with your spouse and set a hard, realistic deadline. Make it a priority to pick somebody by a set date, no exceptions.
3. Be Open-Minded
A lot of people automatically discount grandparents because they'll be too old in, say, 10 years, or dismiss their single sibling because he or she hasn't put down roots yet, and they're worried about what might happen down the road.
But remember: your will isn't set in stone. If your parents would make great guardians today, use them. If your sister ends up with a job or a family across the country, you can always change your guardian later on.
Your estate plan can (and should) grow with your family. The best guardian for your toddler might not be the best fit for you teenager, and don't let that stand in your way.
4. Be Closed-Minded
By the same token, stick to your guns. If someone really rubs you the wrong way, if you don't agree with their parenting style or their core values — don't let your partner sway you. This is one of those situations where you need to trust your gut. If something tells you this is the wrong person, don't choose them.
5. Hurt People's Feelings
Picking a guardian is not the time to spare people's feelings. It doesn't matter if your sister-in-law will be hurt, or your best friend already assumes that she's the guardian because you've asked her to be your baby's godmother.
And when it comes to writing your will, a quid pro quo, as we lawyers like to say, is never a good idea. So many of the women I spoke to felt pressure to choose someone as their child's guardian because they'd already been named in that person's will.
Luckily, the chances of anything ever happening to both you and your partner are extremely low, but you still need to take the time to seriously consider who's best for your family, no strings attached.
Jacoba Urist, Esq. is a health and business journalist in New York City. She's currently working on a book, The Happiest Parent, about estate planning and personal finance, specifically for parents. Over the past year, she's interviewed hundreds of mothers and researched (almost) every aspect of protecting your family's long-term well-being, and she came to one overwhelming conclusion: The Happiest Parent is the one who plans for the future no matter how hard it may seem today.
Jacoba earned her Juris Doctorate from New York University in 2002 as well as her Masters in Taxation in 2004. She also has a Masters from The Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies where she studied economic and regulatory issues.
Jacoba is also a member of our ProSquad team of experts here on Parenting Squad. Check back often to benefit from her advice.