Unless you’re a horrible parent, this is one of the most important questions you’ll consider when doing your will. This is also, perhaps the most difficult question to answer. After all, I’m a lawyer, not a parenting expert. In fact, decisions regarding guardianship are often based on hard-to-define preferences and gut reactions. It is not uncommon for couples doing wills with me to go through their list of relatives and find something that puts them off about each one. For one relative it may be the boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife that is not terribly liked. For another relative, it may be the person’s age and or relative lack of maturity. For another relative, there may be an issue with the person’s jet setting or perceived hedonistic lifestyle. In another relative’s case, there may be a concern about the person’s lack of financial stability.

One relative may have too few children, and another relative may have too many. One relative may be too religious and another relative is not religious enough. In case I’m coming across as being flippant, I want to assure you that I’m not. These are all valid considerations. Each person is different and each person has a different idea as to what sort of person would make an ideal guardian. In many cases, spouses will disagree about who would make the best guardian.

I would strongly discourage people from holding out for an “ideal” guardian. Just like there is likely no such thing as a perfect parent, there is likely no such thing as an ideal guardian. Rather than looking for the ideal guardian, you should be looking for the best person among the typical candidates.

Who are the typical candidates? Siblings, parents if they are still fairly young and spry, and sometimes incredibly close friends may be considered as possible guardians of your children. Siblings are usually the best candidates. Siblings tend not to be too old or too young. They are also hopefully sufficiently close to you and your children that they would be willing to take on such a burden.

Believe me, looking after someone else’s children forever and ever is a substantial burden. Even if it is not a financial burden, it is still a lifestyle burden. In most cases, this is not a job that people are vying for but an undertaking that someone extremely close to you will grudgingly accept only because that person is extremely close to you. As such, you cannot hope to hold out for the best possible candidate on Earth. What you want is someone who is good enough who will not say, no.

Your parents will rarely say, no, but perhaps they should consider it. Expecting a 70 year old to look after your 6 year old is a lot to ask. In the long run, it may not be good for the 70 year old or the 6 year old. Yes, historically, grandparents have been actively involved in raising children. But in historical times, the average person would start having kids in their mid-teens and die from what would today be a minor bacterial infection by the age of 30. Also, in historical times, a kid would go out and work in the field and be a significant source of economic support for the family. In modern times, a kid is a parasite until his or her mid-20s or beyond. A modern child will not add to the family coffers and will in fact be a significant drain on household finances. Piano lessons and university education don’t come cheap.

A friend may be a fine choice, but this person should be an extremely close and committed friend. Make sure you check with your friend in advance. There is a saying, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” There is, of course, another saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” Child guardianship is a lot to expect of a friend.