It’s hard to think about your child growing up without you — but it could happen. A bad accident or sudden illness could claim your life and leave your child behind.

If you don’t have a will that designates a guardian for your child, the state will decide who gets the job. There’s no guarantee that the court will ever know or care what you might have wanted unless you put it in writing.

However, picking a potential guardian isn’t easy. While you obviously hope it never comes to pass, just mentioning the subject can get your family members and close friends in an uproar as each of them throw a hat into the ring.

Here are some tips to make the process go smoothly:

Do it quietly

Make your decision first and have your first and second choices (and maybe a third) picked before you discuss it with anyone. Then, only ask the people you plan to name as your first and second choices if they’re willing to serve. Keep the rest of your friends and relatives out of the decision. (If you decide to tell them after you’ve already finished and the will is written, you may have some emotional fallout — but it will still be better than listening to all of them competing for the job.

Talk about it with your spouse or partner

Talk to your child’s other parent, if he or she is in the picture. Make sure that you’re both on the same page and can agree on the same choices.

If you need to talk it through, work through the list logically. Have an honest discussion about each potential guardian’s maturity level, parenting skills, energy, health, financial savvy, education and beliefs. Look at who your child is comfortable with as well. If he or she has a close relationship with a candidate, it could make things easier for your child if you are suddenly gone.

Have an attorney put it in writing

You decision won’t count for anything unless you put it in writing. An estate planning attorney can help you prepare your will and name a guardian. You can also discuss other important issues, like trusts and financial guardians — which could both be good ways to further protect your child’s future.

Source: BabyCenter, “How to Choose a Guardian for Your Child,” accessed May 18, 2018