Guardianship of Minor Article


Selecting a Guardian for Your Minor Children

According to a recent survey, only 36% of U.S. parents with minor children have a will. This means that 64% of children do not have a legal guardian selected for them by their parents in the event of the unexpected. Instead, these children will be the subject of guardianship proceedings by the state court system and social services department. In the same way that parents aim to protect their children during life, parents should act to avoid such circumstances and instead ensure their children are well taken care of in the event something where to happen to them.

Choosing a guardian can be overwhelming. Many couples have not finalized their will and estate plans simply because they cannot agree on a guardian. Parents should not delay for this reason. Parents should think about what qualities are most important to them in a possible future caretaker for their children. Consider the following questions:
  • Who will love your children in your absence?
  • Who will afford your children a safe, stable environment?
  • Are there social or religious qualities that are important to you?
  • Where do you want your children to live and be raised?
  • Who has qualities you respect and admire and would want passed on to your children?
  • Would a family member or close friend be a better caretaker?
  • Who would honor your memory?
Parents struggling with the issue of guardianship should answer these and other questions that are important to them and have a serious, rational conversation and come to an agreement on guardianship. Failing to reach an agreement on guardianship is tantamount to allowing a judge and social worker unknown to you and your children to decide guardianship.
Importantly, parents should identify 2 or 3 possible guardians, to ensure a back-up plan in the event one or more guardians are unable or unwilling to act as guardian. After you’ve agreed on a list of possible guardians, schedule a time to talk to each person about the issue of guardianship. Tell them: “We are meeting with our attorney to work on our estate plans and would like to talk to you about a few issues that are important to us.”

When you’re ready to have that conversation, here are some issues you should cover:
  • The ask: “We’ve thought a lot about the type of person/family we’d like to help raise our children in the event we were to pass away unexpectedly. We would be honored if you would consider acting as guardian of our children.” Let them know if there are family, religious, emotional, social, or other reasons that were important to you in selecting them as a possible guardian. You can also let them know if there are qualities or beliefs you hope they pass on to your children.
  • The arrangements you’ve made: “We’re meeting with our estate planning attorney to finalize ours wills/trust. We intend to make sure you are provided with the necessary finances to care for our children.” You may want to mention if you’ve purchase life insurance or have set up trusts to assist them financially. You can also discuss if you will allow them the choice to live in your home while they are raising your children.
  • Give them time: “We know this is a big responsibility. Please think about it and let us know if you will act as guardian.” Tell them when your next meeting with your attorney is and ask that they get back to you by then.
Choosing a guardian for your children is an enormous responsibility and should be taken seriously. But the importance of the decision should not be a reason to delay providing for your children.

Contributing Attorney: Allison Kierman is an attorney at Kierman Law, PLC where she provides assistance with estate planning and business consulting.

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • I have had legal guardianship of my grandson in Arizona since he was 15 months old. He is now 11. My husband has been given a promotion and we now have to relocate to Indiana. As legal guardian am I able to just move with him? Do I need to file paperwork? Do I need his mothers permission? She is still unable to take care of him in a stable manner. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank You
  • My sister recently moved to AZ and left her children at my house & didn't tell me she was moving. She left me with no guardianship, power of attorney or ANYTHING that will give me authority to take these kids to get medical attention god forbid something happens. They've been living with me for 10 months. How can I apply for legal custody/guardianship? 4 kids and no help from the parents. I have 4 of my own. What do I do?
  • My question is how do I go about getting Guardianship/Custody of my 3 nephews. I really need legal advice. I don't want then to end up in the system.
  • what can i do to get my social security card if my grandmother doesnt have legal gaurdianship over me?
  • My dad died in 2008 my sister who is autistic and my brother were left with my grandmother she has guardianship of both of them now but she is unfit to take care of them she can't walk and needs a nurse how can I take custody of my brother and sister my brother is 15 years old and my sister is 19 and autistic my grandmother doesn't let me take them anywhere
  • I have full guardianship of my 17year old nephew. Father has been court ordered to pay 50% of past medical bills. He is refusing until I provide him copies of the bills. Nephew doesn't want to because they show record of the PTSD his father caused and he is afraid of his father retaliating. Am I required to provide them or are we protected by HIPPA privacy laws?
  • Have guardianship over nieces just wondering if it's ok to move out of state with them
  • My husband & I have legal guardianship of our two grandsons, aged 14 & 15. Our 14 year old has requested to live with his mother, who is also in Tucson. This will be ok with us, however we don't know exactly how to proceed. His father has physical custody,mom has joint custody. His dad has indicated that he does not want him. What is the legal proceedure to turn custody over to his mom?
  • I am 19 years of age and I have a girlfriend that lives currently in mesa arizona. Although she has a guardian, can I pick her up and bring her back with me to live with me in greensboro north carolina if she leaves a note willingly at her assisted living home stating that she left with me by her own choice?
  • I gave revocable guardianship to my mom when I moved out of state so the kids could finish that school year and I started my new job. Now that I have petitioned to revoke guardianship, she is suing me for custody. I am so far and not sure how to handle this.

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