How to Raise the Question of Legal Guardianship

It's never too early to consider picking a godparent or legal guardian for your children. Read advice on how to start the selection process.

It's important to decide who will be in charge of your child if something happens to you, but figuring out the best candidate can be a tough task.

Although your child may already have godparents, the role of a godparent (primarily emotional support, and in some cases a religious role) is different from that of a legal guardian. The people you pick to be your child's godparents won't necessarily be able to fulfill all the responsibilities you're looking for in a guardian who will care for your child for the rest of his life.

Once you've chosen the ideal person, you might feel like wiping your brow, popping the champagne cork and celebrating.

But while celebrating is certainly on the cards (you've made sure your child will be taken care of!), you still have one big step left to take -- asking that person if she's up to the challenge of guardianship.

Four Things to Keep in Mind

This is a situation where a bottle of wine and home-baked goods might not quite fit the life change that you are about to ask your parent/sibling/best friend/cousin to be prepared for.

Although the usual "buttering you up" gifts won't apply, there are steps you can take to make the person feel more comfortable and to ensure that she makes the decision that's best for everyone involved, not just the decision she feels you really want her to make.

Below, Victoria Collins, Ph.D., CFP, senior managing director for First Foundation Advisors and author of Best Intentions: Ensuring That Your Estate Plan Delivers Both Wealth and Wisdom offers some advice.

1. Toot His Horn

You've done a lot of soul-searching to pick the best candidate to be your child's guardian, and you should let him know that. Build on the relationship that you already have with him, as well as any relationship he might have with your child. "Say something like, 'We've been good friends for a while, and you know our child well and know how important she is to us,'" Dr. Collins suggests. Talk about the values that you share and, if he has any children of his own, about how you respect the way he is raising his own kids.

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