It’s very common that a young couple would first look to their own parents as legal guardians of their children if something were to happen. After all, look how good you turned out! ????
There were two primary reasons I wanted to go into estate planning. I knew I would have the best clients on the planet and I would have more control over my schedule.
I ended up partnering with a 20-year estate planning veteran attorney who also happened to be a wonderful human being.
To learn the craft I would sit in on all of his client meetings and observe how he educated clients on estate planning topics. He was a master teacher, constantly drawing analogies and using stories to help clients understand estate planning concepts.
On the topic of guardianship, I started to notice how he was consistently giving advice that seemed counter-intuitive to me when counseling clients on selecting legal guardians for their young children.
He would always counsel his clients, “grandparents typically do not make good parents.” While I was a little puzzled by this at the time, over the years I have come to appreciate the wisdom in this counsel.
The article quoted Steven Mintz, a family historian at the University of Texas at Austin as saying, “Our culture views the grandparent relationship as positive, but the grounds-eye view is a little more complicated. Sociological surveys suggest a fair amount of ambivalence on both sides.”
Catherine Giordano, a young grandparent at only age 52, expressed what the article said is a common sentiment among grandparents: “I’m involved, but I’m not the parent. I’m looking forward to getting to be involved and not necessarily doing it all over again.”
And that, I believe, is the key. Most grandparents have no desire to do it all over again. They’ve been there, done that and are ready to move on into the next chapter of their lives.
They’re also tired.
Wendy and I are still raising 3 children at home but our 5th grandchild is on the way. The realization has hit us in recent years as we watch our married children that being parents of young children takes a lot of energy – energy we no longer have!
This makes sense for a number of reasons. Besides having better health and more energy, your close friends or siblings often are in a similar stage of life as you are and may even have children similar in age to your children.
The point of this discussion is not to say that if your parents were the best option you have that it would be a mistake to name them as legal guardians of your children if something happened. I believe most grandparents would step up, assume that sacred stewardship and do the best they can if they had to.
I have, however, come to agree with my mentor’s counsel and encourage my clients to look to others closer to their stage of life when choosing legal guardians for their children before looking to their parents.