Whether you are a new parent or a seasoned professional with teenagers, there is an important question you need to ask yourself – have I nominated a guardian for my child? Having a godparent is not sufficient; the only way to legally nominate a guardian is to complete a will.
A guardian is the person who would be the substitute parent if both you and the other parent die before the child reaches age 18. If you do not nominate a guardian, then the potential exists for various family and friends to seek guardianship over your child, a costly financial and emotional process decided by a judge.
Thinking of someone who will step into your shoes is almost an unbearable thought; many of my clients tear-up when discussing the issue with me. I find that it helps to have some concrete questions to answer:
· Who has a close bond with your child;
· Who is in good health to raise your child;
· Who shares your family’s values in terms of religion and education;
· Who could realistically take on the financial responsibility of raising your child;
· Who lives in an area where you would want your child raised; and
· Who does your child want to live with?
Before nominating a guardian in your will, first you should ask them if they would like to serve as a guardian. Second, I advise all of my clients to leave a letter to the guardian expressing his or her wishes for the child’s upbringing. For example, how much should be spent on holiday and birthday gifts.
Completing or updating your will is the only way to nominate a guardian in Wisconsin. To do this you can either work with an attorney or complete a basic Wisconsin will on your own; forms are available from the Wisconsin Law Library.