Congratulations! You’ve run through the list of your family and friends, and you and your spouse have finally decided on the right person or persons to be your child(ren)’s legal guardian in case of your death. It’s time to move on to another key part of properly preparing for the unthinkable: You need to actually ask the people you’ve chosen as guardians if they’re interested in the job, rather than just sticking it in the will and hoping no one ever has occasion to find out what’s in there.
Here’s the thing: Actually, if you’re feeling really anxious about asking someone to be your kids’ guardian, you might want to rethink if that person is a good choice. It should be someone you’re close to, someone whose parenting philosophies and general life philosophies you admire and someone who you’re pretty sure will say yes. It’s a little like asking someone to marry you—you don’t ask the question unless you’re pretty sure you know what the answer will be.
With that in mind, here are some fun ways to bring up the guardianship question.
Write a Poem
This is like a little love letter to your potential guardians—but poetry doesn’t have to be serious. Highlight both the things that you like about the person or couple you’re asking to be guardian to your child, as well as the good times you’ve had together and/or that this person has had with your kids.
Make sure to know your audience. If you’re a fan of gallows humor, this could be one of the rare moments where it’s actually appropriate—but only if you know your friend or family member receiving the poem will appreciate it.
Make a Video Slideshow
Ideally, you’re doing this pretty soon after your first child’s birth, or perhaps even while he or she is in-utero. Most family do not, however, follow the “ideal” path when it comes to estate planning. If your kid(s) are old enough to have build memories and a stash of photos with the person or people you’d like to have be his or her guardian, you could put together a slideshow with photos of your kids having fun with the potential guardian.
Invite the potential guardians over for dinner and a home video… and show the slideshow, with a “Will You Be My (or our) Guardian)" message at the end.
Make it Part of a Dinner Date
You are asking your friend or family member to make a major commitment—although it is very unlikely that he or she will actually have to follow through with it. Whether you write a guardianship poem, sing them a song, give them a photo book with a surprise question at the end or show a video, inviting the person or couple over for a good dinner with wine is a good way to start the conversation.
… And now, some don’ts
There’s also some things you should avoid when asking the guardianship question, whether you’re taking the lighthearted, gallows-humor approach or a more serious, let’s-put-this-in-the-will approach. Here are some serious don’ts:
- Don’t expect an immediate answer. You might get one, but you don’t want the person or couple to take this responsibility on lightly;
- Don’t involve the kids too much, especially if they’re younger. You probably find thinking about your death disconcerting—your kids will find it even more so.
- Don’t be offended if the answer is no—oh, and that’s why you should also have a backup person in mind.
What’s important here is that you choose a guardian, have the conversation and make it legal in your last will and testament.
Part One in Series: How To Ask Someone to Be a Guardian
Part Two in Series: Having the Guardianship Conversation - Do's and Don'ts