My wife and I were married for ten years before we finally did our estate planning. We didn’t have an ‘estate’ per se but were taking a long trip without our six-year-old daughter and knew it was time to act responsibly. Like many young couples, we procrastinated in getting our wills done, in large part because we couldn’t decide who should be named guardian if something happened to us. Ultimately we were fortunate to have a trusted advisor point out that even a ‘less-than-perfect’ decision by us was much better than letting the state make that determination.

So how do you decide to whom you will entrust the care of your child/children if you and your spouse are not around? First, you need to designate someone that is actually capable – mentally, physically, and emotionally – to nurture and raise your kid(s) until adulthood. {Note that you should work with your financial advisor to ensure that financial ability is a moot point, through proper planning and insurance.} Don’t make assumptions here; often you may not be aware of personal circumstances that your intended selection may be going through.

Not only must they be able, but willing. It would be unconscionable to appoint someone as a guardian without asking them first. And if they ultimately refuse (which they can), you’re right back where you started, and a judge or some governmental bureaucrat will pick someone. Your idea of the perfect person may be completely disconnected from their desire to assume such a huge responsibility. The key is open communication, having that conversation no matter how awkward.

Perhaps the most important consideration for your choice is finding someone that shares your values and your philosophy on child-rearing. This is why close family members (siblings, parents, other children) are the frequent selections, but again, don’t make assumptions. Your sister who is ‘just like you’ may prove to be uninterested in private education. Or your brother might assume that you’re fine with a more-liberal religious upbringing. You owe it to yourself and your progeny to talk these things through and make the best pick for this life-impacting scenario.

So, what’s holding you back? Technology has made it easier than ever to take charge of your health and wealth. In about thirty minutes, you and your spouse can create the basic documents that every parent should have – a will, power of attorney, advance directives, HIPAA authorization, and healthcare surrogate. If you’re adult enough to have children, you should be grown up enough to take care of their future.