Children: A Guardian For Your Children
In the event that a parent becomes incapacitated or dies, it becomes necessary to appoint a guardian for underage children.
If there is another parent that person generally becomes the guardian. However, there may be reasons a parent may not want the other to be guardian.
If there is no other living or acceptable parent, the court will appoint a close relative in such a case to be guardian -- but not necessarily the person you would choose.
Providing now for children gives peace of mind and lets your children know if you if something happens that you cared enough to be sure they were provided for.
One way to plan for your children is to appoint a guardian.
- A guardian is someone appointed by a court to make personal and/or financial decisions on behalf of a person who is not able to take care of him or her self. A guardian of your child will make parental decisions for the child in your place. A guardian is not a parent.
- A guardianship will continue until the child becomes a legal adult as defined in your state; a child dies, a judge rules that the child no longer needs a guardian or, if the guardianship was created to manage the child's assets. the child no longer has any assets.
You can ask the court to appoint a guardian while you are alive or you can name a guardian in your Will.
- If you do have a will:
- If you do name a guardian in your Will, keep in mind that no matter what you say in your Will, the court makes the final decision concerning who the guardian will be. Still, a judge will generally give a great deal of weight to the parent's selection. (When you provide advice about your choice for guardian, also include the name or names of alternatives in case for any reason the first person cannot, or does not, serve.)
- If you do not specify the person you would like to be guardian the judge will try to determine what's best for the child by listening to people who are closest to the child. However, those people might not have the child's best interest at heart. As a result, the selected person may not be the best person to care for your children or raise them the way you would have liked.
- If you do not have a Will, you can write a letter indicating your choice. Store the letter with your important documents. (Note: Everyone should have a valid will. They are generally easy to write, and do not have to be expensive. If necessary, they can even be free. To learn more, click here.)
While you're thinking about this subject, until a guardian is appointed or other arrangements are made, it is advisable to prepare a document which gives someone the authority to make emergency medical decisions for your children if you are unavailable or incapacitated.
For additional information, see:
- What Does A Guardian Do?
- How Long Does A Guardianship Last?
- Why Should I Consider Having A Guardian Appointed Now?
- How Much Does It Cost To Appoint A Guardian?
- Do I Need A Lawyer?