Legal Process for Planning Guardianship of a Child Through Your Estate Plan
Estate Planning as a parent of a minor child has a unique set of necessities. A key area of this process involves selecting a trusted person to obtain guardianship of one’s child in case the unexpected occurs.
What is a Guardianship?
A guardianship is a legal relationship created by the court system to provide a caregiver for a minor child. The caregiver will have legal rights and custody of the child in order to provide a home for the child and make financial and health decisions to benefit the child. Not all guardianships have the same legal rights. Some guardianships separate finances and health so one person will be responsible for handling the child’s finances while another person will take care of the physical health and well-being of the child.

Planning Guardianship of a Child

As a responsible parent, one of the aspects you want to legally prepare for is the guardianship of a child. Although this may feel uncomfortable to think about, it is necessary to consider what will happen to your child if you are no longer here for them. Who will be the person to take care of them every day, make sure they are fed properly and go to school? You might think it doesn’t matter because someone in your family will take care of your child, but you could be mistaken. If guardianship is not discussed, you might not know who is really willing and able to accept the responsibility of caring for your child. If no one steps up to take the role of guardian, the court system will appoint someone and it may not be a family member.

If the child’s parents don’t name a guardian in their estate planning documents, a judge unfamiliar with the situation and the people involved will select one for them. A person will obtain legal guardianship when the court (usually probate court) sees them as most appropriate to take on the role and appoints them to make decisions for another. The legal guardians for children generally make decisions regarding your child’s assets like Social Security benefits, estate inheritance, finances, and health. The consequences of failing to assign this important role of Guardian to someone are significant and worth spending some time to consider designating a guardian through your estate planning documents.

When planning your estate, using an online document preparation service like GoWillTrust can be an affordable alternative to hiring an Estate Planning attorney. A guardian doesn’t have to be someone who has a blood or family relationship with the minor child. Through our document preparation services, we can provide helpful information so you can select a guardian from relative caregivers or friends.

Choosing a Non-relative for Guardianship

Since the person doesn’t have to be a relative, when you are selecting someone to care for your child, there are several aspects that you should consider.

  • Guardian’s age and energy level
  • Guardian’s current relationship with your child
  • Guardian’s willingness
  • Guardian’s family dynamic: married with children?
  • Guardian’s financial status: can they afford it?
  • Guardian’s values and parenting style
  • Location

The person you choose should be a reliable option to provide a stable home without added drama. They should be willing and physically capable to care for your child should the need arise.

The courts hold guardians accountable for acting in the child’s best interest. Therefore, the guardian must submit an annual report to the probate court until the guardianship ends when the child becomes 18 years of age.

Should I Set Up A Guardianship Now?

Everyone has hopes and dreams for their child’s future. However, the future is unpredictable and tomorrow is not always guaranteed. Providing for your child’s care through estate planning is the best way to protect your child and ensure the right person is caring for your child. To further ensure your wishes are followed, we provide document services to help you express your hopes and expectations regarding your child’s upbringing so you can discuss them with your chosen guardian. This might make both you and your chosen guardian more comfortable with your decision.

The online document preparation service of GoWillTrust can help you prepare for this unlikely eventuality and provide additional information and tips.

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