Right up there with Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, are some very important people in a baby’s life. If your child will be baptized, you will be asked to select a pair of godparents. And regardless of your religious beliefs, you might also consider naming a legal guardian for your child.
While each role has distinct responsibilities, they share a common purpose: carrying out your wish for these chosen individuals to love, honor and care for your little one. With a little preparation and advance planning, you can call upon the right people for these priceless positions.
Before your child is officially baptized, you’ll likely go through a preparation process that will include choosing a godmother and godfather. Becoming a godparent is “almost a calling,” says Sister Eileen Corcoran of Our Lady Queen of
When considering who to ask to fill this important role, she advises that new parents look for a family member or close friend who is preferably an active member of the church and someone who’s willing to share their faith. “Being local is also helpful, so they can build a lifelong relationship with your child,” adds Corcoran.
Jon Sweeney, an editor of Becoming a Great Godparent (Paraclete Press, 2013), seconds the significance of a godparent’s participation. “Most of all, a great godparent needs to be involved in the life of the child and the family,” he says. “He or should be solidly grounded in the Catholic faith, be a person of strong character and someone who wants to play an active role in bringing up the child in the church.”
Be sure that your potential godparents have completed their own religious sacraments to ensure that your child grows up with a strong religious upbringing. But, as the pastor of
While drawing up a will may be one of the furthest things from your mind after having a baby, experts say it’s the ideal time to put your affairs in order. “It is prudent for new parents to appoint a legal guardian as soon as possible after the birth of their child, as one cannot predict what is to come even in the near future,” says Rebecca Provder, a New York-based attorney specializing in family law.
In the event of an emergency or another unforeseen circumstance, designating a legal guardian will alleviate any concerns as to who will care for your child. According to Provder, typical guardian responsibilities include providing a home for the child, making health and education decisions on behalf of the child and fostering the child’s social well-being. Only those individuals age 18 and older and legal residents or
To officially name a legal guardian for their child, you will need to call upon a family law attorney who can draw up a will. “Typically, one or two alternate guardians should also be specified in the will in case the first choice for legal guardian is unable or unwilling to act,” cautions Provder.
While some legal guardians may also manage a child’s financial matters, you may opt to have an estate plan drawn up and appoint a separate trustee. “Ask yourself what will happen to your assets,” says Magnolia Levy, a New York-based attorney who practices family law. “Do you want a legal guardian to have control of your assets, and how do you ensure that the money is used on your children?”
A trustee, she explains has a “fiduciary duty that is held to a higher standard than a legal guardian.” To find the best estate planner for your family, Levy advises asking friends and co-workers for references and finding reviews online. “The first couple of months with a new baby are busy, so try and do this when you’re pregnant,” she advises. “And be sure to cross-check your references. It’s an important decision.”