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

  • Is it possible to obtain legal guardianship of an unborn grandchild? The mother of the unborn child is my 16-year old daughter. The purpose of guardianship is to provide health insurance for the baby.
  • 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 am a single mom of 4 children (20, 19, 13, & 10). I divorced the children's father almost 8 yrs ago. I have full sole custody, and he was granted supervised visitation 2 hrs a week. Soon after the divorce, he stopped seeing or contacting the children. He currently has 5 felony warrants in the state of AZ for drugs and such and owes large fines. He fled the state about 6 yrs ago. And has not been seen or heard from since then. I want to know what I can do in lieu of custody of my children in the event of my death. Obviously the older children are safe; however, my 2 younger children I am concerned about. They do not know him or even know what he looks like. A long time fear of mine is that he could come and take them from family and friends here. Am I able to leave them to a more capable and safe guardian? And if so, what can I do without racking up large attorney fees? Thanks so much.
  • Our parents passed away two months ago and in their Will they appointed me guardian of my fourteen year old, half sister. Her grandparents don't like me and want to gain custody of her. Their son always said he never wants them to have my sister because of how he was raised. Our parent's assets are split between us so I will be able to take care of her until she comes of age to get her half. Please help. I can't get through this hard time without her with me.
  • My 22 year old daughter was arrested along with her boyfriend. They have a 2 year old child together. They were aressted for battery in the 3rd degree. My daughter spent 5 days in jail & the boyfriend spent 38 days in jail. With them being arrested, my grandchild how no where to go but with me. She is still with me & I don't know where the parents are. I have talked to my daughter a couple of times sense april. I asked her to give custody to me sense she Iis homeless & can not take care of her child. She refused. She did sign a notery so I could be able to take my grandaughter to the doctor
  • 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.
  • My husband passed away three months ago. The insurance company requested me to furnish appointment of guardianship to release the benefit of my daughter (under 18) under the Group Term Life Insurance. What should I do?
  • My Gandson's mother took off when he was 3 weeks old, he resides with my son since we brought him home from the hospital.. My question is do how do I go about getting gardianship of him when my son goes into the Airforce in Feb, my son is willing to sign custody over to myself does the mother still have the right to take him since she does not come around to see my now 5 month old grandson?
  • A few years ago my husband and i went to a lawyer and went through the process of appointing a legal guardian for our children, if we should happen to pass away. We have the paperwork at home, in our safe. However, the couple we appointed at the time is not who we want now. What do we have to do to get it changed? We were told we could just write who we want now on a different piece of paper and get that notarized. Is that correct?
  • Hello my son is 3 years old. A year ago hisfather left we chose to be civil and not go to court. I am now going into the airforce and letting his father and my family care for him. I am scared his father will keep him instead of sticking to the plan we made. Can I give temporary guardianship to someone I trust?

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