When we found out we were pregnant with Amelia, Mark and I had several discussions about who we wanted to take over raising our child if something happened and we weren't around to. He had one person in mind, and I had another. There are several things that should be taken into consideration before making a decision and it should not be taken lightly. Mark agreed with my choice once Amelia was born and we saw how everyone interacted with her. Some things we took into consideration before making our decision...
Does this person love your child? This is huge! Will this person make your child feel loved no matter what? If this person has other children, will your child be treated as one of their own or will they come second to the others?
How able is the person to care for your child or children? When your child is born their grandparents might be at a good age to take over raising a child, but think beyond that 5, 10, 15 and so on years. Will they still be able to care for them?
Will the chosen guardian be able to give the child/children the life you wanted them to have? It's important to think about how you want your child raised. Would that person insure that your child is educated as you wish? Will that person raise your child in the religious faith you want? Is that person willing to expose your child to different activities (sports, arts, music)? Does this person have the financial capability to raise your child? Most people have a life insurance policy, so will this person make sure that the money is used the way you want it to be?
What is the relationship between your child and the chosen guardian? This was very important to us. As I said, Mark and I didn't agree when we discussed this before Amelia was born, but once she was here and we saw the way people chose to interact with her our decision was easy. A child is not responsible for building a relationship with people... it is up to the adult to decide the type of relationship they want to have with their nieces, nephews and grandchildren. There are people who really put effort into spending time with her, and that is the type of person we would want her to be with.
Location... Will your child have to move far away from other family members, or away from their school? And if so, how would that affect them?
Would this person allow the child to see family members from both sides? You will want to make sure that the person will allow other family members to spend time with him/her after you are gone. If someone in my family was given guardianship I would want Amelia to still spend time with Mark's family, and the same would be expected if she was left to be raised by someone in his family.
Once you have chosen a guardian, make sure you discuss this with them and they are fully aware of your decision. Allow them to ask any questions they have so they know exactly what you would want. Allow them to turn down taking on guardianship and try not to be too hurt if they do. Everyone has reasons as to why they can or can't do something. Maybe they don't think they could give your child everything they need. Maybe they don't feel capable of raising a child. There could be any number of reasons why they choose to say no. This is a huge decision, not just for the parents but for the person being listed as guardian. Give them time to really think about what this would mean.
After you have an agreement with the listed guardian, have a will made up. The courts will ultimately decide who gets your child. Other people can come forward and try to get custody, but from what I've heard through talking with people and researching this topic, a court generally rules in favor of the will. You can look online to see how your state generally handles situations like this.
The last thing you should do is write a letter that will be given to the listed guardian when your will is read. I think it would be very special to leave something for that person. Maybe it's a heartfelt letter as to why you chose them. Maybe it's an encouraging letter that will help them get through this hard time and the big adjustment ahead. Whatever you decide to include, make it personal and special to that person. After all, they are the person you chose to raise your most precious gift.