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 mother has guardianship of my daughter and i need to establish visitation rights for myself and my husband for our divorce
  • I am a single mother of 6 children. 4 of them belong to my first husband and the baby belongs to my last husband but the next to youngest does not have any contact with her father. He does not want to have anything to do with her. I have joint legel custody of all of the other children and would like to know what my mother can do to retain that custody or have legal visitation for herself should something happen to me, and become the legal guardian of my next to youngest child since she will have no one else to turn to?
  • How old does a child need to be to say where they would rather live?
  • 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
  • my mom abuses me, but I don't want to call DCFS unless I can go live with my dad, who has zero custody of me. is that possible for them to send me to my dads?
  • 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?
  • My mom lives in a different county than myself and my daughter,I would like my mother to take temporary guardianship of my daughter for the purpose of enrolling her in school in the county that my mother lives in.Can she do that
  • 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 ...
  • i have a friend who is now 17 and her grandma had guardian ship of her but had kicked her out of the house and she has been staying with me since. now they are trying to get her to go home but she doesn't feel safe there. how can i make it to where i take over guardian ship of her? or how can she get imancipated she just does not want to go back to that place
  • 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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