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Differing opinions on who legal guardian should be in the case of our death

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Our twins are 8 months old- legally we have nothing on paper surrounding our wishes.


We are at a place in which we've sort of stuck with going with my sister-in-law, the boys' Auntie, as guardian. I have been honest with my partner that this isn't my first choice. We have dear friends who are a couple, who are in the "family zone" themselves, sharing a similar lifestyle and are similar philosophically to us. This couple was an obvious choice for me as our "backup guardians" for our children. And in initially explaining this to our family, mainly my sister-in-law, during my pregnancy, a great deal of offence was taken to choosing someone outside of family- particularly of depriving the only sibling of this care-provider role.


I've tried to be as understanding as possible. I am an only child, my partner has only the one sister. My partner seemed very much in agreement with the choice of our couple-friends though after having some conflict with his sister over this, seemed to waiver with his thoughts, and then seemed to just change his mind- explaining to me how unique and special a sibling relationship is and that we should take her feelings into consideration and honour his sister with this role. 


This isn't a topic that comes up often, though in reflecting from where we're at now- my sister in law just hasn't taken on the Auntie role the way I would have hoped. I don't plan on not being here for my boys, though life's unpredictable, and I just can't sit well with the thought that should something happen to me someone who hasn't had nearly the involvement as other loved ones in their lives would have legal custody over my children. 


My partner and I have an extremely open dialogue between us, and I was surprised he had changed his mind from our friends to his sister as guardian as we had thoroughly discussed this together early in our pregnancy. I really feel the need to readdress this, and I feel he would see and appreciate my views on this- though I want to be sure to address this in as considerate a way as I can. 


I am an only child, my knowledge of sibling relationships and expectations comes only from what I observe in other families. After reading through this situation, can you please advise first of all if it seems appropriate for me to wish my children to be with a guardian who is not their relative, and how to best bring this issue to the floor? I'm trying to be fair, though there's a small chance this is something to affect my children's upbringing, and I really don't feel that's something to be dictated by the worry of stepping on someone's toes and hurting feelings. I want what's best for them.


Oh family dynamics....


Thanks for reading, and I look forward to responses.





post #2 of 15

we have been thinking a lot about the same issues and actually with twins as well!


First of all i do think its fine and really understandable to turn to non related people when looking for the best for your babes. Family does mean something, all things being equal. But they are rarely all equal.  

I think that finding folks that will raise your children closest to the way you would want to is the first and foremost goal.


and you are not denying anyone of their "care-provider role" remember that if your SIL wanted kids she could have gotten there on her own. frankly i would be happier with folks that already have kids and have settled into the dynamic and i have gotten to se how they handle the stress of it. I'm not sure how healthly ""instant families" are.


i am also put off by folks taking offense about your choices, again, you dont own family anything. that they would take offense to me shown poor character. i have sisters that love and adore my kids and they would not be offended for 5 seconds (or would keep it to themselves until they got over it) if i chose someone else. and i spoke to my mom about my choices (leaning towards a long term friend with kids and similar parenting styles as well) and her only concern was visitation and thankfully she and my friend have a great relationship.



hope i dont sound too harsh, i get defensive when i heal people getting pushed around by family deciding what they have a right too.  you have a right to make this very important choice with just you and your partner and not influenced by outside pressures.

post #3 of 15

My sister nor Dh's brother would get our children if something happened to us. Their feelings are meaningless in this issue, what matters is what is a better fit for MY children who are not adults and can not speak for themselves. Hurt feelings and stepping on toes is a part of parenting, this will not be the last time it occurs. You try to do it respectfully, by in the end, you have to do what is best for your family.


post #4 of 15
Is sil in law married? Do you like her partner? If not, the couple of friends might be the better choice.

We choose family friends as our children's guardian and I felt so good about our choice. They really had values more similar to the way we wanted our kids to be raised.
post #5 of 15

I would pick the family friends. I would want my kids to be with the best fit for them, with someone who would raise them how I would.


Personally I wouldn't have even discussed it with SIL. The guardianship of my kids is not something I need to discuss with anyone except the people that I would like to care for them.

post #6 of 15

DP has two brothers (one with children) and I have eight siblings (six with children).  We chose family friends for our guardians for a number of reasons.  Some of these reasons didn't apply to all siblings, but taken all together I feel the friends were the right choice.


1) The family friends are more in touch with us on a day to day basis (they live in a nearby town, same school district while most of my siblings live a couple hunded miles away).

2) The family friends have a more similar lifestyle/ political & religious beliefs.

3) The family friends would be the least *traumatic* to my children in that they could stay in the same school district (same schools, in fact), with their same friends, etc... 

4) The family friends have better age children to incorperate our children into their family (most of my siblings have older kids, so their children are going to college or going to go within a few years and they're looking foward to the freedom).


I always assumed we would choose one of my siblings to be guardians, but it just didn't make sense when the time came.  We did talk to our families about it, though, because we wanted there to be no misunderstandings or conflict *at that time* if we were ever in the position to need the guardians.

post #7 of 15

I'm not exactly a "voice of dissent" because I don't think you should necessarily chose your SIL...I just want to offer some things to consider.


Firstly, I don't think that a family friend will necessarily be the same with your kids as with their own children.  If they have children of their own, it is likely they will put their own children first, ahead of yours.  (I realize this isn't necessarily a fair statement.  We would all like to think that this would not happen, and that we, ourselves, would never do it in the same situation.  But when push comes to shove, that parental instinct would be pretty darn tough to over-come.  AND I recognize that if SIL does/did have kids, the same thing could happen, but the blood ties IMO make a difference).


Secondly, how important is it to you that your children get to know their family?  Grandparents? Aunts and Uncles?  Cousins? Because if they live with your friends, even if family have visitation rights, they will not likely get the same level of interaction.


You haven't said that your SIL's life-style or outlook is contrary to your own.  You just have said that your friends share the same lifestyle.  Do you know your SIL would not be open to your parenting wishes?  Have you discussed this with her?


What are your friend's thoughts on this situation?  What about finances?  Do you have life insurance?  Would you make the friend's trustee of the estate, or just guardians?  Who do you trust more with your money, the friends or a family member? (SIL or parents, etc.)


Maybe you have already considered all of these things, but it is not apparent from your post.  I do, however, agree with PPs that your SILs feelings aren't what matters.  Your DHs, on the other hand, matter equally to your own.


Honestly, unless I had no family members who were suitable to be guardians of my children I would chose family every single time over friends.  My parents are our choice of guardians.  My mom is generally AP, but whereas we are very non-materialistic, no media, looking at Waldorf education, my Mom is pretty main stream and shows love though items, etc.  But you know, I turned out ok and I know DS would grow up with all the love I could hope he would have with my parents, and that they would look out for his best interest.  That matters more to me than whether we vote for the same political party or if my mom would buy him plastic toys or send him to a Waldorf school.


I hope you and your husband can come to a peaceful agreement on this.  I would suggest that if it becomes a contentious issue you think about talking it through with a counselor to act as an intermediary as it could really help with dialouge, allow you both to feel heard, and avoid a lot of conflict and hard feelings.  It's a really major thing to be deciding on. 

post #8 of 15

Originally Posted by AndreaJay View Post


 And in initially explaining this to our family, mainly my sister-in-law, during my pregnancy, a great deal of offence was taken to choosing someone outside of family- particularly of depriving the only sibling of this care-provider role.



Unless I had other very good reasons for choosing your SIL, I wouldn't even consider choosing her after reading this. Someone who takes offense at my decisions about my own children, based on "depriving the only sibling of this care-provider role" isn't someone I want as my children's primary guardian.


My mom and stepdad were my choice as primary guardian for ds1 if my ex and I had died. DS1 is our choice of the younger three. We've talked about it with him, and my parents (mom and stepdad, not my dad) are in agreement and onboard to help. We don't have a lot of close friends, and the only one I'd consider as a guardian in her own right isn't a good option, because she lives too far away, and my kids don't know her well. I also don't know her husband very well (I like him - but don't know him anywhere near well enough to trust my children to him, yk?). DH's parents aren't a great option, practically, as my kids only see them once a year, for a week, and we have some very differing values. My parents are just getting too old to take it on full time. Neither of my siblings are in the running for various reasons. Neither of dh's brothers are, either - neither of them know our kids at all (have only met them a couple of times each), and both have differing values from us, and we have no idea what kind of partners they may choose one day. So, no. It falls to ds1 by default. He's the only one we feel is young enough, close enough to the kids, and likely to provide them with the kind of emotional stability we want them to have. If my parents weren't still around, I'm not sure what we'd do, but we know ds1 has great back-up.


My parents chose a couple friend as our guardians. When I found out, I was thrilled. I think they'd have been great. There's no way in this world I'd have wanted to be brought up by either of my parent's siblings. No way.


Family isn't always best, and it's about what's best for the children, not what's best for their aunt!

post #9 of 15
Originally Posted by nstewart View Post

Maybe you have already considered all of these things, but it is not apparent from your post.  I do, however, agree with PPs that your SILs feelings aren't what matters.  Your DHs, on the other hand, matter equally to your own.


While I agree with this, in general, I don't agree if her dh is looking at it from his sister's point of view, not from his children's point of view. It sounds, from the OP, as though her dh is being swayed by his sister's offense over this. Her offense is irrelevant.


Honestly, unless I had no family members who were suitable to be guardians of my children I would chose family every single time over friends.


May I ask why? I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I'm just curious.


post #10 of 15

We still need to fill out the paperwork (our priority is that the kid not go to my parents, who aren't super-keen on being the guardians anyway, and we're not going to tell them that because probably nothing will happen to us and they'll never need to know) but I think that whoever is most suitable should be picked, and family ties should be one factor but not the only factor. Our first choice would be husband's brother and SIL, who do get the edge because they're family, all other things being equal, but if they aren't willing second choice would be my best friend and her husband. When my parents picked guardians for us when we were small, they picked friends because none of their siblings were in anything like a position to raise kids.


If SIL isn't suited to be a guardian, pick someone else. If she's really going to get that bent out of shape over it, that's kind of immature IMO and just goes to show that she is probably not the right person for the job. Why is she tying herself in knots about something that is really unlikely anyway?


Reminds me of the episode of Friends where Rachel's sister has a fit because Rachel says she didn't pick her to be her daughter's guardian.

post #11 of 15

Having issues with the quote function today. 


Honestly, unless I had no family members who were suitable to be guardians of my children I would chose family every single time over friends.


May I ask why? I'm not trying to be obnoxious. I'm just curious.


There are a few reasons.  I think one of the main ones for me is that it is very important to me that my children know and have a relationship with their family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents).  Even if grandparents had visitation rights, it wouldn't likely be the same type and level of interaction as if they had an aunt or grandparent as a guardian.  My sister, for example, would be over at my parents for Sunday dinner at least twice a month.  It likely wouldn't be as convenient for a friend to drop my DC off and then pick them up for those types of dinners.  Same with other family functions and holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter.  This just isn't important to some people, I recognize, but it's very important to me.


Also, friends change over time.  My best friend and her husband (as a couple they are/were both dear friends to DH and I and the type of couple who would likely meet the criteria as "guardian candidates" based on other's comments here)  moved back to Toronto 1.5 years ago.  We were good at staying in touch at first, but now we talk maybe once a month?  Life gets in the way and friendships change.  If I'd named them as guardians I'd then have to think about "un-asking" them, changing paper work, and finding another guardian.  What if life got in the way and I didn't get around to doing this and something happened to DH and I?  Then DC would either be going to live far away with people he didn't know, or my parents and family would have to deal with a huge legal hassle to try and change guardianship.  Family is family, that never changes (not for most people, I know there are seriously disfunctional families, but you'd know that before making them guardians and probably chose not to).  I've had several "best friends" through my life, but my sister will always be my sister and my mom will always be my mom.  That is a way stronger bond (for me) that will change but never weaken.


As I said in my PP, I also would worry about my kid being second fiddle to my friend's kid(s) in the family.  Like I said, we all like to think we, ourselves, would be above making such distinctions if we were guardians, but I also think that it is human nature to favor your own children and we see this played out in blended families all the time.  At least with an aunt, there are blood ties that (IMO) might diminish this effect.


Also, I think EVERY family has some type of issue or another.  With our family, we know what these issues are.  For example, I had a great upbringing, great childhood.  But my mom is a work-aholic who will probably never retire.  She also tends to be a bit controlling, but out of love and concern for her kid's well being.  Thankfully my dad counteracts that.  I also know all about the dynamics of the relationship between my sister and my mom, my sister and our cousins, my mom and dad and their siblings, etc. etc. etc.  While I would know a lot about my friends, and might know a BIT of the dirt about their families, I would NEVER know the real dynamics of the broader situation into which I'd be thrusting my children.  Every family has skeletons in the closet, or is disfunctional in its own (however small) way.  At least with mine I know what they are.  In my case, I'm lucky because they're all rather minor.  I recognize that for other people their own family's disfunctions would be a good reason to pick friends over family.



Now, I know OP said that DHs sister took "great offence" to the fact that a non-family member would be guardian.  The OP hasn't explained what this means.  Did she just express dissapointment, or was it something more?  Honestly, if my sister were to tell me that she had friends and not me or my parents chosen as guardians for a future niece or nephew, I would be somewhat offended and also very sad.  I can't even explain why but I think it would be partly dissappointment and not being able to "be there" for my niece or nephew, which would be very important to me, and also a sadness that my sister was "closer" to these friends than to me.  As you can probably tell from my posts, I am very close to my family and to my sister.  I don't know how close OPs DH is to his sister, but if they are very close maybe this is how she is feeling.


Again, I'm not saying that OPs SIL is a better choice than their dear friends, but these are just factors that I would consider in chosing a guardian.

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

I very much appreciate all the responses. Ultimately, I know what I need to do, and that's readdress this issue and get things in place, going with my friends vs. my SIL. Having this thread has helped me get some of my concerns out, and seeing everything typed out, it's all much more obvious to me now. Again, thank you for the responses.


I love my SIL dearly, and she has many wonderful qualities that I love, she's my friend. She is 10 years old than I am, I'd like to think with that comes more life experience and maturity, but from a purely objective stand-point, she has so, so much more growing to do. 'Adorkable', reading what you wrote, particularly the term "instant family"- something just really clicked for me. I know first hand the transition from being a non-parent to a parent is huge! Regardless of a great deal of preparation and planning and anticipation and having already established a solid foundation in our relationship- my partner and I have felt absolutely swamped, and completely overwhelmed by times. Some people may really step up to the plate and thrive in a situation in which they need to for survival, and maybe my SIL would choose to do that, but I really feel taking on my family as her own would just create a tremendous amount of stress in what would be an already stressful situation surrounding our death.

Lately when I see my SIL, I end up playing mentor over petty issues that she's creating in her relationship. She's in a fairly serious relationship with a wonderful man who's influence on my children I'd welcome and trust completely- though she's just making life hard for herself! I feel her maturity level and concept of "the grander picture" of life is not where his is, and not where my partner and I are. I know she's going to release a lot of what she needs to and really come into her own as her life continues on, though I just can't take the chance on her being able to grow-up, let go of all her own freedoms and tie herself down to her new instant family and thrive in doing so. She's assured my partner she would do exactly that in a heartbeat if need be- and I think that's where the offence to us not seeing her as the best candidate initially came into play. Anyway... in this scenario- I'm dead, I couldn't worry about her feelings if I wanted to. ;)


Like I said, love her dearly- I just have to make a good call for my children. 


Our friends are wonderful people. I really reunited with this wonderful lady when we were both in college studying Early Childhood Education. We talk nearly everyday, and her partner is wonderful. I've become really close with him myself too, and he and my partner are magnetic together- it's a bit of a "Bromance", if you will. They're currently expecting their first child. They were so, so supportive of us through our pregnancy and have gone out of their way to help us in parenthood. I've faced my own hurdles on and off regarding fatigue relating to sleep deprivation, and they've taken off work and travelled to us to give us relief by times. They've been amazing, and they've done far more than I'd ever ask of anyone- they just "get-it". Them having the empathy to realize the struggles that come along with parenthood as well as the joys is such a huge thing to me. And like I said, they're very philosophically on par with us. Though they don't yet have children of their own, I've worked alongside my friend in providing care and education to young children the past few years, and I respect her ideas surrounding child rearing. She's passionate about making the best of all situations for children, and that's what I would need particularly in the case of our death.


Ramble over! I'll make time to chat with my partner this weekend, so we can iron these details out. I hope they never come into play, though I recognize they're of great importance.


Thank you all. :)

post #13 of 15

I would be sure that you're leaving enough $$ to these non-related people so that they will be able to face a court challenge.  Be sure also to have all your paperwork looked over or done by a lawyer whose wills have stood up in court.  Wills are contested, and in a situation like this I would anticipate that would happen.


Once we did all of our estate planning and made sure that the relatives we chose were up for the mental and financial challenge of the very strong likelihood of challenge by my parents I started sleeping well at night.  Nobody likes to think of this possibility but it happens. All the time.


I think it's worth the extra $$, and would not trust LegalZoom or the like with anything like this where you are not going with a blood relative.

post #14 of 15
I'm with Tiger. Use an attorney, go over all of this very carefully, and make sure it is all done properly.
post #15 of 15

i think you have thought this out very well and are seeing the parts that matter the most. how amazingly lucky you are to have such great friends in your life. may you live long and get to enjoy them for every day of it.

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