As a young mother, I like to share with other parents how the law can affect their children.

Though you are without a doubt the very best parent for your child, you should carefully consider who the next best person for this important role may be.

Although it can be emotionally difficult to consider, failing to name a guardian for your children leaves their fate entirely up to a stranger – a judge, who will decide who will raise your children without your input should the need arise.

Texas law provides that a court will first look to appoint a grandparent as your child’s guardian. While the stereotypical grandparent may seem like a wonderfully nurturing choice, the reality is that not everyone would be comfortable with having their parents raising their own children. Since there are four potential grandparents a judge can choose from, it is easy to see how conflicts can arise between couples and families at the most inopportune time in a child’s life. Stability and a smooth transition are key in these types of situations. If you do want your children to be raised by your parents, you and your spouse should designate the same guardian in your respective wills so the court will know from which of the four grandparents to choose. I advise my clients that both a guardian and at least one alternate should be named in their will.

Some important things to consider when choosing a guardian are: 1.) Whether the potential guardian’s parenting style and values closely mirror your own or what you would want for your children; 2.) Whether the potential guardian is in a position to support your children’s financial, physical, and emotional needs; and 3.) Whether there is someone (even a non-relative) your child may already have a close bond with, and would feel most comfortable being raised by.

Once you have identified a few potential guardians for your children, it is a good idea to directly inform them that they have made your guardian short list. Doing so can help determine who may or may not be most willing to take on such an important responsibility. It also provides you the opportunity to discuss your dreams and wishes for your children. This would also be an appropriate time to assess with your financial advisor whether or not life insurance is necessary to provide for your children until they are old enough to support themselves.

A little planning for your family today can provide them great security tomorrow. Declaring guardians for your kids can give you peace of mind that your children will be well taken care of no matter what the future holds.  Contact your local estate planning attorney to learn more about how estate planning can help protect the ones you love.