One of the most important estate planning decisions you can make is to appoint a guardian for your minor children. Failure to do so could leave your children in legal limbo for some time following your death.

Appointing a guardian for your children should be a priority, but it is a decision that deserves some careful consideration. Here are some things you need to know before appointing a guardian for your children.

The law makes no assumptions

You may think that a godparent or a close family member will become your children’s guardian by default. This is not necessarily the case. The court will deliberate and make its decision based on what it believes to be the children’s interest. If you have a specific person in mind as a guardian, it is essential that you make your wishes known, especially if the person you choose is not a family member.

You do not have to wait until the child’s birth

You can appoint a guardian for your unborn child while still pregnant. It might be a good idea to take advantage of this during the quiet period before your life becomes chaotic with the baby’s birth.

There are two types of guardians

When you hear the word “guardian,” you may think primarily of a guardian of the person, who is the individual who shelters your children and takes care of their daily needs. However, there is also a guardian of the estate, who handles finances on your children’s behalf. It is simpler, though not required, to appoint the same person to both roles.

You may need backups

The person you choose to be the primary guardian of your children may be unable or unwilling to serve in the event of your death. Therefore, you should think about appointing secondary guardians as contingencies to ensure someone is available to care for your children no matter what.

It is also a good idea to discuss guardianship with the person you want to appoint before naming him or her in your will.