8 tips on how to let your family know about who you really want as your childrens’ guardian

Consumer Guide on

How To Talk To Your Family about Your Fiduciary Choices

Time and again we have seen families hesitate (for years, may we add!) to even start the estate planning process because they are paralyzed by the thought of having to break the news to a family member that he or she is not going to be their first choice of a fiduciary (i.e. a guardian, trustee, agent under a power of attorney etc.). If you fall into this category of individuals, then having this conversation could be as awkward as letting a porcupine loose in a balloon store. However, setting up your estate plan and selecting the right people for various roles are critical not only to get your estate affairs organized but to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of when you are gone. Don’t let ‘paralysis by analysis’ get the better of you– use this guide to approach these important discussions with kindness, concern, and a sprinkle of humor.

      1. Schedule a meeting with the family member (s) asap!

  • Make reservations at a nice restaurant of their choice well in advance. Once its pre-scheduled both sides are committed so its harder to push off.
  • Start by acknowledging the sensitivity of the topic and any apprehension they might have
  • Show empathy and understanding, recognizing that these discussions can be emotional.
  • And one of our clients recommends – “don’t forget to bring a nice bottle of wine!
  • Prepare the environment that will allow your family member to relax and let their guard down even if its just for a bit.

      2. Simplify and Focus

  • Keep the conversation straightforward, focusing on the key points.
  • Explain the rationale of why you picked who you picked and avoid over-explaining.
    Stay on topic!
  • Be kind in your tone and always keep their sentiments in the back of your mind. Know that they may be upset, only because they care about you and your family.

      3. Explain Your Intentions Clearly:

  • Gently explain why you chose certain individuals as Executors, Guardians, and Trustees.  If you are selecting different people to handle your affairs if you become incapacitated, then explain why you chose that particular person. Focus on those people’s strengths rather than your family’s weakness.
  • Emphasize that these decisions are made with the family’s best interests in mind.

      Some examples –

  • You already have four kids of your own and we thought it would be unfair to impose this additional burden on you to name you as the guardian.
  • [Name of Person] would be better as my healthcare power of attorney because they would be less emotional if I gave them authority to make end of life decision making authority.
  • As you know, [Name of person] does not have pets and [Name of Child] is allergic to pets.
  • We really gave this a lot of thought and kept [Name of Child] interests in mind. We made arrangements with our [Name of Friends] who have offered to serve as guardians of our children, if we in turn, offered to serve as theirs.

      4. Address Their Concerns Thoughtfully:

  • Listen carefully to their concerns and respond with calmness and kindness.
  • Provide reassurance and factual information. If they get too heated, remind them, “Hey, I’m just trying to avoid a real-life version of ‘Family Feud.’”

      5. Set Boundaries with Compassion:

  • If the conversation becomes tense, kindly but firmly steer it back to the topic. “Let’s not go there. Otherwise we might turn this into a reality TV show”
  • Remind them of the importance of respectful communication and the shared goal of honoring your wishes.

      6. Seek Common Ground:

  • Find areas of agreement and emphasize shared goals. “We all want what’s best, even if we sometimes argue like we’re on a bad sitcom.”

      7. Offer Written Documentation:

  • We call this our “Letter of Wishes” which outlines your decisions and the reasons behind them. Normally we ask families to write a Letter of Wishes to their trustees to give them insight into how they want their money distributed to their children after they are gone. This is typically left along with their estate planning binder. However we think that by writing down a similar script in advance, it will not only help avoid ad-libbing during the drama but can be something your family can read later when things are not so emotionally charged
  • Ensure your estate planning documents clearly specify the roles and responsibilities of each chosen individual.

      8. Express Gratitude and Trust:

  • Thank them for their willingness to engage in this important conversation. “Thanks for  joining this not-so-fun, but oh-so-important family meeting!”
  • Reassure them of your trust in your chosen Executors, Guardians, and Trustees to carry out their duties responsibly.


Discussing your estate plan with difficult family members can feel daunting, but with patience, empathy, and a dash of humor, you can navigate the conversation effectively. By approaching it with kindness and understanding, you can ensure your wishes are clearly communicated and respected, keeping the family harmony intact—even if it means cracking a joke or two along the way.