Note: The following facts are fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is coincidental.
Sahar is a 33-year-old mother with two young children, a boy, Hamza (5), and a daughter Layla (3). She comes from a Muslim family and is blessed with two aging (aren’t we all) parents and three siblings, 45-year-old brother Ibrahim, 38-year-old sister Salma and 28-year-old sister Maryam. Maryam, an Attorney, is not married just yet. Older sister Salma is a homemaker, her husband owns a successful packaging company, and her eldest brother Ibrahim is a married surgeon with a wife and five children. All her parents and siblings live within a 15-mile radius, and her older sister lives just a mile away.
All her siblings share her values, and she has a great relationship with them, their spouses, and their children. There are moments of awkwardness like any family, but it’s pretty good.
Sahar wants to name her brother and sisters as guardians for her minor children in her last will, and her husband Tariq (a rare only child who immigrated from Palestine) wants to do the same. However, Sahar would like to ask their permission first.
How should Sahar handle this?
Answer: Sahar should NOT ask for permission. Sahar should name her siblings in the order she and her husband feel are most capable of acting as a Guardian for minor children when she and her husband do their Islamic Estate Plan. She then tells those siblings they need to step up if anything happens to her and her husband. It is their responsibility to take care of their children. Of course, all those nominated guardians with children similarly need to have a plan in case they pass away first.
Sahar’s siblings already have a hand in raising Hamza and Layla. Siblings are responsible for stepping up if the time ever comes and their nephews and nieces become orphans. They must take care of their kin. If they can do the job, it’s not a choice; it’s an obligation.
Predicting the Future
Does that mean Sahar’s siblings will act as guardians should the time come? Of course not. Sahart does not know the future. Even if Sahar went to the trouble of asking her siblings to act as guardians for her children, and they said yes, and also, gee, that’s a silly question, that “permission” is meaningless when everyone concerned is alive in good health.
Any planning Sahar does is for some indeterminate time in the future does not know. Sahar does not know which of her siblings will survive, and if they do, will they be in a place where they can competently take the duties of a guardian?
Sahar should have a close enough relationship with her siblings that she would know if they are willing to and capable of taking care of her children if it came to that without asking. That knowledge does not extend to the future. Sahar will need to update her estate planning as things change. In two years, the younger sister Maryam marries a man Sahar has values incompatible with how she wants her children raised; she would need to remove Maryam as a guardian.
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