By Solid Serenity Legal Solutions
The idea of a choosing a guardian for you child can be scary one. Simply thinking of the possibility you may not be able to be there for all your children’s special moments is chilling.
While you will hopefully never need a Guardian for your children, it is important to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Without proper planning, if something were to happen to you, the decision of what would happen to your children would be left up to the courts, or worse, Child Protective Services. And if you don’t make it home tonight, and don’t have paperwork telling the police where your children should go, they will go to a stranger’s home, or a foster care facility.
Uninterested third parties will not have the same knowledge and understanding of what your children need as you do and the courts will not know who would be best suited to love and care for your children. If you want to ensure a guardian is in place for your children in the case you aren’t available, here are three questions to ask.
(1) What is a Guardian?
The first question you have to ask is what exactly is a guardian? Legalese can be confusing. So, it is important to know what you don’t know.
There are two different types of guardian and you can choose to have each be a different person or the same person take on both roles. The two types of guardians are “guardian of the estate” and “guardian of the person.”
The guardian of the estate is someone who will manage the finances of the minor child. This person will be responsible for controlling the inheritance your child receives until he or she is over the age of 18 (or another time you choose if you have a Trust). This guardian will have to manage accounts, keep receipts, keep the child’s accounts separate from their own, and periodically report back to the court.
The guardian of the person is someone who will care for the child in their day-to-day needs of healthcare, education, food, housing, etc. These guardians can be the same person or different people depending on the skills of the people you are considering. Having two separate guardians also provides a system of checks and balances to help protect your child’s interests, if you think that is necessary for your family’s situation.
(2) How Do I Choose a Guardian?
Who you choose as your guardian will depend on your relationships with your friends and family and the skills you will look for in choosing guardians for the estate and for the person.
First, you should absolutely and completely trust the person you’re naming as Guardian to look out for the best interests of your child. Next, determine who has the skills needed for each job. For the guardian of the estate you will want to choose someone who keeps detailed records, is good with handling money, and will have the strength to tell your child “no” if your child comes to them seeking money outside the scope of what is needed at the time. You will also want to choose someone who has the same values when it comes to money that you do.
For the guardian of the person, you likely want someone who shares the same values as you, has a relationship with your child, has the energy to take care of your child, and lives nearby or can get to your child quickly if needed. For each guardian, you should select a backup in case the original is no longer able to care for your child. It is also good to sit down with your prospective guardians before naming them to ensure they would accept such a role.
If your primary choice for Guardian lives more than 30 minutes away, consider naming a Temporary Guardian who lives close by and providing their information to your childcare providers so your children will not wind up in state custody if you and your spouse cannot be reached.
(3) How Do I Name a Guardian?
You name your child’s Guardian through a legal document, similar to other estate planning documents. Oftentimes guardianship is included in your will or Trust. However, you will need documents to name a temporary Guardian as well if you do not want your children taken into state custody if you and their other parent cannot be reached.
It is important to remember that courts will not accept anyone as Guardians by default so you will still need to fill out the proper paperwork to have your Guardians named. Meeting with a licensed estate planning attorney can help ensure that, were something to happen to you, your children and estate would be accounted for and your children will sleep in a familiar bed if they lose you.
Call or email us today to name your child’s Guardian!