Natasha Richardson Tragedy: Who's the Guardian of Your Children?

Cynthia Dermody
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legal guardians and willsNatasha Richardson's tragic death at age 45 makes me sad, unbelieving, and jolts me into some much needed reality. It reminds me that parents can and do perish way too young, leaving little kids behind, and that I can no longer put off the very important task of choosing a legal guardian for my two kids.

I actually do have a guardian on paper -- my mother -- who adores my 4 year old and 5 year old and would take good care of them. But in my mind this has always been temporary. Mom is not the ideal caretaker, as personal finance guru Jean Chatzky reminds in a recent column on the importance of choosing guardians and writing wills.

If you've ever wondered how to go about choosing a guardian, or what the process is like, read her column. It's packed with great information that a lawyer won't tell you -- such as what do you say to the people you don't choose?

She also provides a list of questions you should ask yourself in trying to pick the right person (that's right, one person -- you should not pick a couple), one of which is (BIG note to self) that a guardian should be young enough and in good enough health to take on this challenging task.

My mom is healthy, but certainly not young. And she already cares for my ill father. Adding two little kids to the mix would put her over the edge, and she'd be almost 80 by the time the kids entered high school.

Since my husband and I both have siblings, I always figured selecting a guardian would be an easy choice. But it's not. Love and financial stability is one thing. But as Chatzky explains, the guardian should share the same values of what you feel is important in life and raise your children as you would. That's a tall order these days.

Time for my husband and I to re-stoke the conversation on this one.

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Have you named a legal guardian for your children yet? Who is it and why did you select them? (Tell us in comments.)

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