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Your Guide to Choosing a Guardian

If the thought of putting your kid's future in someone else's hands makes you queasy, imagine leaving it to someone you might not like, or even know that well.

LearnVest

And that could happen: If you could no longer take care of your child, and didn't have a guardian picked out, a judge would swoop in and choose someone for you.

In most cases, the court would first try to find your closest living relative, which could mean any number of people, depending on your situation. That could be your 80-year-old great-aunt Miriam, or your third cousin, twice removed.

Of course, choosing a guardian is a big decision. Even if you've already chosen someone, it's a good idea to revisit your choice every few years and make sure he or she is still the best person for the role.

Although you'll want to pick someone who's financially stable enough to provide day-to-day basics, money shouldn't factor into your decision at all. As the parent, it's your job to leave your child in a solid financial state with backups like a life insurance policy or an inheritance.

(For more on how to choose the right life insurance policy, see Resources, below.)

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When putting together an estate plan, you'll probably be asked to choose both a guardian of your child (a person who will raise him or her) and a guardian of the estate (a person who will manage the money left to your child or for your child's benefit). The two don't have to be the same person. See Resources, below, on what to look for when choosing both guardians.

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If you're anything like us, you've got more than one person in mind who could be a good fit for your child's guardian, so we've consulted with experts and designed a worksheet to help you narrow down your options.

Here's how to compare potential guardians using the quiz below: With one person in mind, agree or disagree with the following statements, using a scale of one through five (with five being strongly agree, and one being strongly disagree). Then, tally up all the points: The potential guardian with the highest total score is the best choice for your child. (See Resources, below, to print out the quiz.)

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POTENTIAL GUARDIAN'S NAME:

VALUES

Questions (Rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)

  • I agree with how this person raises her own kids (choose 0 if she has none).
  • This person's religious beliefs are in line with mine.
  • I agree with this person's views on discipline.
  • I agree with decisions this person makes in her own life.
  • I agree with this person's choice to be a working mom or stay-at-home mom.
  • I like this person's interests, hobbies, and other people she associates with.

Total =

RELATIONSHIPS

Questions (Rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)

  • My child has a great relationship with this person.
  • I trust this person.
  • I have known this person a long time.
  • This person is family, or as close as family.
  • This person has a network of friends and family who support her.

Total =

AGE

Questions (Rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)

  • This person acts appropriately for her age.
  • This person is young enough to be energetic while my child is growing.
  • My child is young enough that age matters.
  • This person is in good health.

Total =

LOCATION

Questions (Rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)

  • My child spends a lot of time in this person's house.
  • If my child lived with this person, she wouldn't have to move out of town.
  • If my child lived with this person, she wouldn't have to change schools.
  • My child has been to where this person lives and enjoys it.

Total =

OTHER CHILDREN

Questions (Rate each item on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest)

  • My child gets along with this person's children (choose 5 if this doesn't apply)

TOTAL SCORE =

Originally published on LearnVest.com; republished with permission.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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