Appointing a guardian is an important reason many parents come into the office for estate planning.
Parents are able to nominate guardians for their minor children using a will, a designation of standby guardian or other signed document executed in the same manner as a health care directive.
The nominated guardianship takes effect in the event the parents are deceased, become incapacitated, or are otherwise unavailable to care for their child. Nominating a guardian does not eliminate a parent’s rights and responsibilities. Only a court can terminate a parent’s parental rights and responsibilities.
Most often, parents make the guardian designation in their wills. Upon the parents’ death, the will is submitted to the court. Interested parties, including the child if he or she is over age 14, are provided with notice of the pending guardianship. If there are no objections, the court will appoint the nominee as guardian and issue letters of guardianship.
Appointing a guardian is a big decision. The following are some factors to consider when nominating a guardian:
Values. Are the guardian’s moral, religious and political values those which you want your child to receive? Having a conversation about these with the guardian may be helpful.
Location. Where your child lives can have a big impact on the child. Often because of the guardian’s work or family circumstances, the child will need to move to live with the guardian. If this is a concern, parents can provide instructions for their child’s living arrangements and designate assets from their estate to pay for these arrangements.
Parenting. Is the guardian a parent? If so, how does his or her parenting style compare with yours? Will there be drastic differences that will confuse or upset the child?
Age. How old is the guardian? Will he or she have the energy to take care of your child? Will he or she have the time to care for your child while building a career or caring for their own family?
Finances. Does the guardian have the ability to manage your child’s finances? Often, parents find the best person to take care of finances is not be the best person to act as guardian. In this case, parents can name a guardian for the child and a trustee for the child’s assets.
Family. A parent should take into consideration the guardian’s family situation and how the child will fit into the guardian’s family.
Acceptance. Has the guardian agreed to accept the appointment as guardian?
Balzarini is an attorney at law with Miller Legal Strategic Planning Centers, P.A. Contact him at Miller Legal at firstname.lastname@example.org.