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

  • my boyfriends mother has had gaurdianship of our daughter for about two years. what are our rights as her parents??? also she wont even lets us be alone with her??? my fiencee and i are well established with jobs and a nice apartment. what can we do??? please help!!! thank you
  • I have had sole custody of my three sons since my divorce in 2007. Their father moved away to vegas and only sees them at christmas, doesnt pay child support and only calls on their birthdays (after i send a text to remind him). I have ben remarried 2 years but my husband has been apart of their lives for four years now. Can he file to be a guardian so he has legal rights? How would we get this started and what would we need to do? Would this effect child support?
  • I need to know if all petitioners on a guardianship application must appear in court. We are filing for guardianship of my almost 18 yr old son with Down Syndrome.
  • 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?
  • How do I go about giving guardianship or power of attorney of my son to my sister and brother in law
  • what are the steps that I need to take to terminate my childrens guardianship and return them back to my custody. And what are the steps to I need to take to open up CPS' case that have been closed to reopen them
  • Im trying to get custody of my nephew whom we've had the majority of his 4 years. My sister is bad on drugs and does not want to let him go even tho we have 20days out of 30. He calls me mom my husband dad and our 2 kids are his brother and sister. How and where do I begin to start this custody battle?
  • Our friend who was a single parent caring for her 13 year old son just past away. The father has always been in the life of this child and now has promised to dedicate all that is needed to continue raising him. My concern is if something happens to his father and if there is a legal actiin that can take place prior in order to avoid this child ever becoming involved with state litigation etc
  • Okay everyone I have a question where downtown can I go to establish my parental rights over my 2 year old son,so his father could never take him from me. My son's father has been in prison for over a year a d 3 months and now h3 is out and trying to give me a schedule on how we should share our son and I feel with his drug use and past I don't feel comfortable with agreeing with him on his schedule besides I believe since I have been raising and providing for my son his entire life I should have the say of how the schedule should be.
  • How Do i get guardianship of my 15 yr old sister she has been in my care for a year and half my mother signed a notarized letter stating she gave me temp custody of the child. My mother is currently living in Calif. and is in the process of trying to remove her from my home. My sister does not want to live with her neither one of the parents live in AZ. My question is basically how do i go about getting guardianship of her. Please help ...

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