If you’re a young parent, part of making your estate plan is picking a guardian for your child. If you pass away, this is the person who will take over raising that child. You want to know that your child is in good hands, so picking someone in advance reduces confusion, makes things go more smoothly and ensures that your child will actually end up with someone you know can handle the job.

But how do you actually pick the right person? It can feel daunting. Do you just pick the closest relative? Do you pick a grandparent, despite the fact that they’re much older than you? How do you go about finding that ideal candidate and putting your child’s future in place?

It’s not easy. The first step is to decide what is actually important to you. This may feel obvious, but it’s not always so simple. Making a list of what you care about most — your values — forces you to really think about what you want these substitute parents to agree with you on, and where you’ll allow for more leeway. 

Once you know what you’re looking for, list out those who fit the bill. This initial list can then get parred down by considering things like financial ability to care for a child (or multiple children), mental and emotional stability, existing relationships with the child, proximity to you, physical ability to raise a child, and the like. Start with your core values, then work your way down through these additional factors. Once you begin, you’ll discover more that matter to you that you never thought about before. 

When you’re ready, then look into the legal steps you need to take to make your choice official. Estate planning is a must for every parent, so don’t delay this important process.