One of the most important parts of your estate plan is caring for your minor children. It can be easy to assume that the closest family member will automatically become their guardian if both you and your spouse pass away, but in fact, others can petition for guardianship as well.

To make sure that your children are protected and have the best care possible, take some time to appoint a guardian and include them in your estate plan. Here are a few things to consider as you make the decision.

Write out what you want

What are the essential traits that you need a potential guardian to have? Consider their relationship to your kids, their family dynamics, where they live, their lifestyle and any other values that you feel are important in raising your children.

Make a list

Writing out the names of your options can help you get a clearer picture of the situation. Include family members and close friends that you may consider as well. Then, you can consider your top choices and begin to narrow the list down.

Talk to your potential guardians

It’s essential that you discuss your decisions with your potential guardians directly. Always ensure that they are willing and able to act as a guardian and begin an open dialogue to talk about the decision.

Consider naming more than one

It’s always smart to have a back-up named in your estate plan. Appoint an alternative guardian in your estate plan in case things change with your original choice.

Remember that no one will feel like the perfect choice

No one, no matter how great, can really take your place as parents. While you, of course, want the best for your children, remember that no one is perfect, and it will be near impossible to find a guardian that will feel like the ideal choice. It can be helpful to remember that no matter who you choose, your family and other close friends can be there to support.

Talk to your kids

If your children are old enough, it may be helpful to ask them what they think about your potential choice in guardian once you have it narrowed down.

Once you have made a decision about a guardian for your minor children, be sure to let your estate planning attorney know so that they can include the choice in your estate plan. Remember that you can always go back and make changes if necessary.